Seriously, Jesus would do that?

Rev. Neal Humphrey has a nice blog on our web site looking at the question of religious freedom in light of the recent Health and Human Services kerfuffel in which a religiously-operated business was told it had to provide birth control, abortion payment and sterilization to its employees even though those things violate that religion’s beliefs.

Rev. Humphrey explains his case nicely here (click)

Freedom of religion, just like freedom of speech or many other freedoms, is generally summarized as “your freedom to swing your arm ends at the point of my nose.” That’s what I was taught, anyway.

 Sure, you have the right to live your religion as you choose. Go for it, I shall not protest or hinder you in any way.

But is it fair, is it really being Christ-like, to practice your religion in such as way that being true to your faith allows you to impose your beliefs on me? 

If you are part of a religion that sets up a business that has employees, competes in the private sector and in all respects looks like a regular commercial business, telling those employees how to conduct their sex lives strikes me as a bit of a stretch, and telling them how to conduct their medical lives as part of those sex lives, ditto.

 And yet we’re seeing more of this. Rev. Humphrey derides “socialistic” medical dictates of the federal government as giving it entry into some church’s business management, but that’s beside the point. All health insurance is socialism, all medical establishments depend on insurance companies to stay alive, there’s no escaping them. Don’t believe me, ask any hospital administrator anywhere how long he’d be in business if the cost of all those $50,000 surgeries they do was born entirely by the sick guy on the table and not shared around to the rest of us.

It’s a question of individual right, not federal control of someone’s religion. One role of the federal government is to protect the rights of the individual against the majority, and it is interesting that we’re now seeing the guarantee of freedom of religion used to take away the rights of other minorities — those who are not of that faith.

People who use religion to determine how they practice medicine are particularly scary. I know one couple whose doctor lied to them about their child having Down Syndrome. Flat out lied so they wouldn’t consider an abortion, and yet did that doctor help with the extra costs that child brought with it?

No. But I bet he went to church and thanked God for the strength to do God’s will.

We seem to be seeing “freedom of religion” morph into “my religious freedom lets me make my religion rule your life,” and I see no good coming from that.

Whether it’s a pharmacist who refuses to fill a prescription or just the Legislature telling the rest of us where and when we can buy beer with dinner, it’s a slippery slope that will ultimately lead to religious oppression of everyone.

My own religion, Roman Catholicism, does not have a good history in this regard. Google “St.  Bartholomew’s Day” for an all-too-typical example.

 

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31 Responses to Seriously, Jesus would do that?

  1. Brent Glines says:

    If employees of religeous institutions had no other source for their contraceptives, abortifacients, or sterilization procedures, you might have a weak case. That, however, is far from the case.

    Insurance is not required to supply everything. Even if it did, you probably couldn’t afford that level of coverage. There are many things my health insurance doesn’t cover. To remedy that, I can get supplimental insurance, or pay for it out of my own pocket if I have to be treated for something my insurance doesn’t cover. It never occurred to me to go before a congressional panel to complain.

    Given that there is a simple remedy for employees to get the goods or services they may want, I think that consideration should go to the employer to avoid violating their constitutional rights.

    Would you be just as agreeable, Charles, to having your 1st Amendment rights as journalist violated because someone objects to you imposing your opinions on them?

  2. Brent Glines says:

    Speaking of “What would Jesus think”, I saw this today.

    From 2 Thessalonians 3:10: “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.”

    • Dave Thomas says:

      James 2:14 Dear brothers, what’s the use of saying that you have faith and are Christians if you aren’t proving it by helping others? Will that kind of faith save anyone? James 2:15 If you have a friend who is in need of food and clothing, James 2:16 and you say to him, “Well, good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat hearty,” and then don’t give him clothes or food, what good does that do? James 2:17 So you see, it isn’t enough just to have faith. You must also do good to prove that you have it. Faith that doesn’t show itself by good works is no faith at all–it is dead and useless.

      • Brent Glines says:

        But if you are capable of providing for yourself, and fail to do so, you don’t eat. That is what the quote from Thessalonians is telling me.

        There are circumstances where anyone may find themselves in need of charity. Being unwilling to work is not one of them, in my view, and apparently not in Christ’s view, either.

  3. Bob Becker says:

    The implication behind the Catholic Church’s claim the requiring insurance companies to include birth control coveragge for those who wish it constitutes religious discrimination is that any religion-based practice should ipso facto be exempt from the strictures of public law. That has never been the law in the U?S? And should not be now. Just for openers, there is a clear public purpose in keeping public health care costs low. Unwanted pregnancies averted by means of covered birth contro save considerable amounts that woukd have to be spent on the resulting pregnancies and infant healthcare that lack of coverage would create. So long as the law does not require any person to use birth control in violation of their religious beliefs and so long as it does not require a church to provide birth control itself, I see no violation of religious liberty.

    That said, I ‘m hard put to think of a worse argument against providing coverage than “is that what Jesus would do?” First off we have no idea what Jesus would do in re: health care birth control coverage as is evident by the fact that Christians cannot agree about WWJD on this. Second, WWJD is not something Congress or the Prrsident ought to be considering as they debate public health policy in the US, presuming Congress coukd agree on tnat, which it can’t.

  4. Brent Glines says:

    I checked, Bob, but I was unable to find a “clear public purpose” exception in the 1st Amendment.

    Roosevelt had a “clear public purpose” in mind in detaining Japanese Americans in Manzinar and other internment camps during WWII, and I think that everyone today agrees that was a pretty piss poor idea.

  5. Neal Humphrey says:

    Hoo Haw — I gotta admit I’m surprised that you missed the point in your zeal to take a shot at me, however respectfully.

    Besides worship, my congregation donates tens of thousands of dollars and tens of thousands of hands-on work hours to Utah AIDS Foundation, women’s shelters, family service non-profits, renovating homes and facilities on Indian Nations, food banks, soup kitchens — the list goes on and on.

    We can do that because we are a religious non-profit corporation who can marshal the resources for outreach without the government interfering with how we direct our administrative strategies.

    But if the 1st Amendment can be transmogrified from freedom of religion to freedom of worship, then there’s another phrase in the 1st Amendment can be changed so that freely expressed opinion in the press can be abridged and your job will be limited to reporting the facts about photography shows and bicycle races.

    You would of course, be brilliant in your factual reporting. But, as my hero, the late San Francisco columnist Charles McCabe once said, “Any clod can have the facts, but having opinions is an art.”

  6. Bob Becker says:

    No rights are absolute, not even first amendment ones (yelling fire in a crowded theater is not protected free speech), etc. The courts always have had to balance the public good against the exercise of a private protected right. The Congress and the courts have required a compelling (not trivial or even just important, but compelling) public purpose to be at stake before religious practice can be limited by law, but both have recognized that such occasions do arise. You may believe fot example as a matter of deep faith that black people are condemned by god to biological and moral inferiority and ought under no circumstances to be placrd on a plane of equality with whites, but your belief notwithstanding, if you drive a bus or own a fleet of them, you cannot require blacks to sit in the back. If you own a restaurant open to the public you cannot refuse to serve them. In those instanes the greater public purpose and good trumps your faith based practice ….. note, not your belief, but your actions based on that belief. (Note: I use that as an example. I am not in any way implying such beliefs are yours.) It has been thus since the beginning of the Republic. No rights have ever been deemed absolute and incapable of limit for a comoelling public good under any circumstances.

    • Brent Glines says:

      In this case, it is people of faith who are being compelled, not others, at least not significantly. To have to find another source of contraception, or alternate insurance is trivially easy compared with what the Obama administration is demanding, not only of religious institutions, but of people faith in general.

      HHS is not only demanding that employers provide health insurance with products and services that violate the religious beliefs of those employers, and that is bad enough, but HHS is also mandating that everyone who uses that insurance must also subsidize those products. No choice in the matter.

      This is not a factor for me personally, but I have friends and relatives who do not want to subsidize this with their insurance premiums, and if they had their preference, they would elect to have health insurance where contraceptives, aborifacients, and sterilization procedures are not covered. If the HHS and the Obama administration have their way, that will not be possible.

      Religious organizations and people of faith are not trying to say that no one should be able to have this coverage. If you want it, that is your choice. They just don’t want to be forced to provide it, pay for it, or subsidize it. I think that a very minimal reading of the anti-establishment clause of the 1st Amendment provides them very clear protections in this regard.

      “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”

      Forcing people to violate a fundamental tenet of their religion while at worst mildly inconveniencing anyone else seems like a serious prohibition on the free exercise of religion to me.

      • Bob Becker says:

        On the “not wanting to subsidize” argument: Quakers, being pacifists on religious ground, have objected to being forced to subsidize killing by having to pay taxes which were and are used to pay for wars. Despite their “sincerely held religious beliefs” on the matter, they have never been and are not now exempt from paying general public taxes. Nor should they be. Or take divorce : Catholics oblect to divorce as a matter of faith, yet Catholics are not exempt from paying general taxes that support divorce courts and the civil apparatus that ssues divorce decrees etc. Their wishing not to subsidize a practice their faith condemns does not exempt them. Nor should it.

        • Brent Glines says:

          Taxes are one thing. Insurance premiums paid to a private corporation are another thing entirely, and are not equivalent.

        • Brent Glines says:

          There is a very strong precedent ruling in favor of protection religious freedoms with respect to contraception decided recently in Federal Court, Stormans Inc. vs. Washington State Department of Health.

          In the ruling, there is an interesting argument that I have not seen elsewhere that relates directly to the HHS contraception mandate controversy.

          “In free exercise challenges, courts consistently find unconstitutional those regulations that exempt secular conduct but do not exempt similar religious conduct.”

          Employers routinely provide health insurance that provides coverage in some areas, but denies coverage in other areas. This is considered normal, and is in no way restricted by law as long as the restrictions are applied neutrally. For example, coverage of cosmetic surgery could not be provided for all employees, but an employer could not restrict only red-headed employees from having coverage for cosmetic surgery.

          In the case of the HHS contraception mandate, religious institution employers seeks to do the same thing (provide no coverage for contraception, etc), but for religious reasons, and the State seeks to prohibit that by way of the HHS mandate. By the reasoning from the decision above, this is clearly a free exercise violation.

          The entire decision is very interesting, and strongly applies to the circumstances of the HHS contraception mandate.

          • Erick says:

            If you are going to pool risk in a health insurance plan, it’s kind of hard to begin striking moral arguments about not wanting to subsidize this or that. I am not particularly interested in subsidizing the personal carelessness of most policy holders who gladly consume 62 – 84 ounces of cola soda drinks, per day. I don’t like subsidizing smokers. I don’t like government programs that enable people to eat themselves into a physical state of disability allowing them to collect both welfare and state/federally subsidized healthcare. Still, everybody can concieve of a list of things they would prefer not to subsidize, which if honored would render the whole system of risk pooling impractical.

            The problem with the issue over benefit plans sponsored by religious institutions is even more difficult in my view. On the one hand, I am generally opposed to government mandates about essential benefits, because the Government does not share in the activity of funding (nor should they), and so they often mandate without regard to how their activities make doing business unnecessarilly difficult and while hurting firms abilities to compete.

            On the other hand, I am also generally turned off by religious institutions using employee health plans to enforce that religions medical ethics. While the firm sponsoring the health plan may be administering the benefit plan, they are paying for it out of the employee compensation budget. While many business’s like to think they offer a “generous” benefit package, the truth is, they can only offer a competitive benefit package. All succeeding firms profit from employee output in the long-run. They don’t profit by paying more than the effective aggregate output from employee labor. While the economists like to suggest that ideally firms reach an equilibrium, the reality is, successful firms pay less than what they benefit from labor. So, the question I struggle with, is “who’s money is it?” If the religious institutions were offering charity I would be less inclined to debate their rights to offer that charity as they see fit. When they enter into a labor contract however, I debate the ethics of placing restrictions on how employees spend their earned income. This all the more poignant when considered in a practical context. If the Church’s religious position were so persuasive, it’s employees would not seek the “prohibited” services, even if those services were allowed under the benefit policy. So, they are imposing “ethical” controls on their own employees spending by holding ransom those employees earned income. In this context, I find the arguments very unsatisfying. It’s a bit hypocritical for the Church (any Church) to cry about having its religious liberties “trampled on” when it seeks to directly trample on the personal liberties of it’s employees in an even more egregious and parochial manner.

          • Brent Glines says:

            Erick, if the employers were to forbid their employees from seeking the goods and services elsewhere, then maybe you’d have a case that personal liberties were being trampled. However, that is not so, just as my liberties are not being trampled because my health insurance doesn’t cover cosmetic surgery.

            With respect to your wish to not subsidize smokers, I can sympathise, but your wish isn’t protected by the Constitution.

            Sorry.

            The way things are going with respect to smokers, you might be able to drum up support for an amendment, so all may not yet be lost.

  7. Bob Becker says:

    Above meant as reply to BG above.

  8. Myth Buster says:

    Kinda missing the point here. Jesus said never call any man Father upon the earth in Mat 23:9
    The word Congregation appears only once in the New Testament; Paul and Barnabas waited for it to break up and told people to get out and continue in the grace of the Lord in Acts 13:43
    The word Reverend appears once in Scripture and is used to describe God in Ps 111:9
    Reverend Neal may think he is God but this is far from truth.
    Why on earth would the Government force Contraception on the Catholic church? Why would the Catholic Church enforce such nonsense?
    Why would the Mormon Church use Tax Free Tithing to purchase a shopping mall like City Creek?
    What would Jesus do? He told you; Ekklesia and Holy both mean “To Separate”. Get out, stop listening to the nonsense and follow Him

  9. Brent Glines says:

    Actions have consequences.

  10. Brent Glines says:

    Here is another interesting article that argues that the HHS mandate is unconstitutional in a way entirely different from the previous ‘establishment’ arguments.

  11. Erick says:

    Brent:

    Where would an employee go to get the benefits elsewhere? You can’t by stand alone policies that cover just the birth control or related services. You would have to purchase an entire policy. In which you are either going to have to double up on insurance which is more expensive, or you would have to forgo the employer benefit plan. When people do this, they are refusing a portion of their income, as employers do not make up the difference in wage adjustments. If you forfeit your company’s benefits, you are forfeiting a portion of your wage. That doesn’t seem like a descent option to me. Secondly, depending on the State, you may not be eligible for a private policy outside of that States high risk pool. If employers were just vendors of certain services, then you would have a point. However, the employer is pooling a portion of the wage budget to pay for these services. In other words, they are making a purchasing decision for you, with your money. You can only decide if you want to claim that portion of your wage or not!

    *Parenthetically speaking – This raises a completely separate issue, of the role of employer sponsored benefits in today’s society. I’m not an advocate of Obamacare or Socialized care, but I would like to see our system migrate towards a solution for entirely individually purchased and financed healthcare. I recognize that this could not just be done overnight, but if you were to ask most employers, they really don’t like administering benefit plans. They do it only because we have built a cultural expectation out of it and handcuffed the healthcare economy to it. Severing employers from healthcare purchasing would be the clearest way of avoiding these kinds of problems. Until then however, the issue is much more complex than your oversimplified argument suggests.

    Ultimately, I don’t like mandated essential benefits, as I said. Still, the reason for that is because it serves as another wage control that ultimately harms the workforce. For those reasons I ultimately object the federal government’s involvement in this issue. But the idea that this represents a infringement on religious liberty is a bit weak, for the reasons I have expressed.

    You missed my point about not wishing to subsidize smokers. I don’t even know where health plans are mentioned in the constitution, so the idea that smokers would or would not be protected under the same, is a bit strange? My point was that even in spite of the fact that I don’t want to subsidize these groups, I am ultimately willing to until a more effective way for managing the risk can be provided. As it currently stands, we have to accept that given the variance in how we would all individually like to see risk managed, there has to be some give and take so that we can at least have functioning system. I was challenging the idea above that some people do not want their premium dollars or tax dollars going to fund things they disagree with. While I respect that perspective, it isn’t practical to manage.

    • Brent Glines says:

      Erick,

      Where do I go if I want cosmetic surgery if it’s not covered by my health insurance? I have to pay that out of my own pocket. With respect to contraceptives, $9 a month at target gets you oral contraceptives. Any corner drug store will get you prophyactics for even less. It doesn’t seem to make much sense to infringe on a constitutionaly protected right for such a trivial cost. We’re not talking kidney transplant expensive here.

      If there is a perceived need for supplimental contraceptive coverage, some enterprising insurance company will offer it if there is money to be made on it. AARP makes a bundle offering supplimental Medicare coverage. The rest of your argument regarding employee insurance pools is irrelevant, I think. The 1st Amendment doesn’t offer an exception for that.

      Health insurance plans are not mentioned in the Constitution, but they don’t need to be. Common sense will suffice. If someone has insurance that covers contraception, that plan will have higher premiums than plans that do not offer that coverage due to reduced operating expenses. Thus, if a person is forced to have health insurance that covers contraception, sterilization, and abortifacents, their increased premiums subsidize products and procedures that they may object to on religious grounds. Under the Constitution, that should be prohibited. Thus, it is not just employers who have a justified objection, but anyone who would be forced to accept that coverage against their religious beliefs.

      Does that clarify things for you?

      • Erick says:

        No, it does not clarify anything.

        You seem to be at a misunderstanding of how insurance works. Your comparison of Medicare supplement policies to stand-alone birth control policies, coupled with your comparison on cosmetic surgery, make that clear. Additionally, your suggestion that :

        “If there is a perceived need for supplimental contraceptive coverage, some enterprising insurance company will offer it if there is money to be made on it.”

        also betrays an igorance of insurance risk and adverse selection. Your last paragraph also suggests that you fail to understand the constitution. The constitutional argument involved in this issue is whether the federal government can require religious institutions to fund practices that they oppose on moral religious grounds. I have adequately demonstrated why this argument is difficult to reconcile. It says nothing about my rights as an employee under a group health plan to oppose the policy benefits of other plan participants. Who is being “forced to accept coverage against their religious beliefs”? You can always refuse to accept medical care and benefits??

        Lastly the cost of the birth control here is not the issue. The issue is whether it is appropriate for an employer to dictate the kind of care it’s employees pursue in order to satisfy a religious agenda. I’m making an ethical argument, in other words, not a policy argument. The Church in this scenario is using the employees money to force employees to behave according to their world-view. Why not just try preaching the world-view and see if it sticks?

  12. Brent Glines says:

    “The constitutional argument involved in this issue is whether the federal government can require religious institutions to fund practices that they oppose on moral religious grounds. I have adequately demonstrated why this argument is difficult to reconcile.”

    No, I don’t think you’ve demonstrated that at all. You’ve mentioned that youy don’t like it, but I fail to be convinced that your likes or dislikes have legal standing in the matter.

    Regardelss, how does providing contraceptive coverage fall under the concept of shared risk with respect to insurance? It’s not like people who want contraception are suddenly going to contract a condition that requires them so start using contraception. They just don’t want to pay for the contraception they are already using, which when you think about it shouldn’t be covered under health insurance anyway.

    Anyway, what rights do you suppose you have “as an employee under a group health plan to oppose the policy benefits of other plan participants”, and where would those ‘rights’ be defined? About the only ‘right’ you have is to seek employment elsewhere if you don’t like the plan being offered.

    • Erick says:

      Brent:

      We don’t seem to be talking to each other. When I said that I have “adequately demonstrated…” I am simply stating that I have articulated my points and my reasons why. You are of course free to disagree as generically as you like, but if your intention were to further the discussion, you would need to engage my points. At present we have my arguments and your unexplained disagreement. Not sure where things can go from there?

      “Regardelss, how does providing contraceptive coverage fall under the concept of shared risk with respect to insurance?”

      You seem to be showing no awareness of the debate here. The social argument is that birth control is a very affordable preventative measure to control the direct costs of unplanned pregnancy on health plans, and the social costs of unplanned pregnancies more broadly. Whether one agrees with the moral implications here, the practical implications are not generally debated by either side of the debate.

      I wonder, how do you determined what “should” be covered under a health plan? I would argue that the market is best positioned to answer this. In which case, contraception has been embraced, for the very reasons I point out in the above paragraph, for a long time now!

      As for your last paragraph, you seem to have misunderstood my point. I am arguing rhetorically that I am not constitutionally afforded the right to oppose the policy benefits of other plan benefits. In your prior comment you stated:

      “Thus, if a person is forced to have health insurance that covers contraception, sterilization, and abortifacents, their increased premiums subsidize products and procedures that they may object to on religious grounds. Under the Constitution, that should be prohibited. Thus, it is not just employers who have a justified objection, but anyone who would be forced to accept that coverage against their religious beliefs.”

      I am stating that you have no constitutional rights to object to what policy benefits other plan beneficiaries recieve. You are entitled through consumer sovereignty to find a product in the market that suits your ideals, if such a product exists. If not, the market or society is under no constitutional obligation to provide you with services as defined by your particular religious ethic. Your latest comment seems to contradict your previous comment.

      We disagree, but I don’t see a helpful debate ensuing. I’ll bow out now.

  13. Brent Glines says:

    Well, once you start dragging in the social implications of contraception, then we really aren’t talking about insurance any more, are we? No wonder we seem to be talking past each other.

    “I am stating that you have no constitutional rights to object to what policy benefits other plan beneficiaries recieve. ”

    If the government MANDATES that contraception be provided by ALL insurance plans, I think there is a constitutional argument to be made, but that will be decided by the courts, and not here. We’ll just have to both see how that plays out, won’t we?

    Part of our mutual problem in communicating lies in the walls of text we both are fond of producing. Perhaps we should limit the discussion a bit. If you haven’t withdrawn entirely, upon what single point do you feel I am least clear?

    • Erick says:

      I’ll get back with you tomorrow.

    • Erick says:

      Rather than trying to rehash the conversation, allow me try and scale my arguments down a bit down for both of our understanding. There are two main points, and one sub-point.

      Main point #01: From a policy point of view, we ultimately agree. I do not support mandated benefits. My reasons for this are that mandated benefits are wage controls. When you said:

      “If someone has insurance that covers contraception, that plan will have higher premiums than plans that do not offer that coverage due to reduced operating expenses.”

      I agree with that point. Mandated benefits hinder competition and can be particularly harmful to small and new business.

      Sub-point to point #01: I call into question the value of continuing our system of employer sponsored medical. I understand the historical underpinnings of this system, including tax infrastructure for employer sponsored benefits, but suggest that society would have likely been better off had we not pursued this course. Employee’s and the healthcare economy are at a disadvantage because healthcare purchasing is not effective at the consumer level, due to the fact that employers are making purchasing decisions for a large group of employees. There is no consumer sovereignty driving the delivery or consumption of services. Additionally, employers are disadvantaged by regulatory complexity that diverts activities away from their core business functions. They should be investing resources into the production and delivery of their respective goods and services, by developing on their processes and stock of human and physical capital. Health plan administration such, enrollments, State and federal compliance, management of deadlines, etc, are all non-productive activities that would be better managed at the consumer level.

      This would of course require a complete overhaul of an overly complex and entrenched system, so I am doubtful that such a thing is truly feasible. Still, in my view of a perfect world, we would drop the employer model of health insurance delivery.

      Mainpoint #02: I disagree that mandated benefits constitute an infringement on religious liberty (though I do believe that they are anti-competition). The reasoning is that there is a fine line between giving health insurance, and administering health insurance. What we have here is a perception issue. While it is perceived that employers give health insurance to their employee’s, they do so only by purchasing the TOTAL cost of coverage from the aggregate wage budget. Employees generally will have an individual fraction of the cost of insurance withheld from their paychecks, with the “employer covering the rest”. While it seems that the employer is paying some of the cost, that is only an accounting contrivance. In reality, each employee pay’s an individual share of the cost, and then the remainder of the cost is spread out equally among all of the employees (including those who do not participate) by money that is not paid in cash wages. In the long run if companies were to pay more in wages and benefits than what each employee contributes in productive output, the company could not earn a profit (we could debate issues such as the return on capital, but that would require a case by case discussion). As a general rule, companies profit by selling products for more than what those products cost to make. Economists argue that companies do not earn profits in the long-run (yet another debatable fact), but that is only because they suggest that the supply/demand relationship for wages and labor run at equilibrium. That is, the cost of good’s sold will equal the revenues from goods sold. In practical experience I have never seen this. Firms either earn long-run profits, or go out of business.

      The point then is, that in this imperfect system of healthcare purchasing, it is a farce to say that religious institutions are being forced to pay for services that they disagree with. The employees are being forced to pay for services with very little input into the benefit structure. If the employees shared the institutions ethic on birth control, then this would be a non-issue. If they don’t, then the employees are being forced to pay more for those services not offered (particularly when those services are covered under most plans) because they are financing the health plan at work, plus those benefits that are being withheld.

      So, in sum, I’m splitting hairs somewhat. I don’t think that religious institutions should be forced to offer mandated benefits, but I’m a little put off by the Religious Freedom argument. They are using their employees money to pursue their own agenda. Let’s just recognize the way things actually work.

  14. Brent Glines says:

    OK, so we agree on point 1.

    Subpoint 1. Part of the reason that insurance provided through an employer is cheaper than individual insurance is due to economies of scale. If an insurance company has to deal with each customer individually, that increases their cost or providing insurance, plus it increases their risk of non payment, hence the price of that insurance will be higher than it would for insurance purchased en masse by an employer.

    Further, the employer gets a tax break for providing insurance for their employees because it’s cheaper for the government to have employers provide insurance than it is for the government to provide insurance directly. There are individual tax deductions for individuals for medical expenses. Perhaps that tax break should be shifted from employers to individuals who purchase their own insurance. That would be a far better approach than Obamacare.

    If you can figure out how to provide health insurance on an individual basis as cheaply and as reliably employer provided health insurance, start your own insurance company. You’ll make millions.

    On mainpoint 02, we will have to agree to disagree and see how it plays out in the courts. Based on the precedent I cited WAY above, I like my chances better than I think you should like yours.

    • Erick says:

      Overall, fair enough.

      The admin on individual coverage is not generally that much more complex. Most groups under 100 still have full medical underwriting, and maximum underwriting threshholds that could be applied. The internet also reduces the complexity of admin from when that issue was initially raised. Most of the front end underwriting and collection of payment can be managed electronically, as well as enrollments and plan selection. Claims adjudication is already handled on an individual basis, whether a person is part of a employer group or participant in the individual market. So those costs would remain the same. The costs of non-payment would be the only real concern, of those you mentioned. The new Health Exchanges, such as those in Massachussetts and Utah, take full advantage of online enrollments to reduce costs. They adminstrative burdens that these projects have encountered have been largely driven by underwriting redundancies (that’s another topic).

      The real cost issue would be access vs adverse selection. In order to provide free access to individual plans, we would have to have an individual mandate to shield insurers against adverse selection. For better or worse, starting 2014 we have that now.

      Administration was part of the benefit of employer health plans, particularly in 40′s – 80′s when most of that was handled by paper. Computer processing and data management have greatly simplified that issue. The real benefit however, in the early stages of implementation, was that you could get the subscriber volume in a single batch/sale that was needed to make these products actuarily viable. Imagine the first health insurance policy holder, how would you spread the risk? That is no longer an issue.

      Regarding your last paragraph – while we apparently disagree, we are not debating what will happen. Rather we are debating the ethics of the argument. Is a religious institution ethically justified in claiming that it’s religious liberties are being trampled when they are using employee funds to impose a religious agenda.

  15. Brent Glines says:

    I’m not sure what the ethics of the argument have to do with the legal standing of the issue, constitutionally. The argument is that forcing religious organizations to provide insurance coverage that violates their beliefs, and thus is a violation of the establishment clause of the 1st Amendment. Religious beliefs have constitutional protections. Ethics do not.

  16. Erick says:

    The title of the post was “Seriously, Jesus Would do That?”. I’m not an constitution attorney (nor any kind of attorney, for that matter). So, I generally shy away from trying too hard to interpret constitutional law. If that’s where you’re headed then I’ll need to swim to back to the shallow end of the pool and just watch you go for it. I’ve tapped out my expertise on that particular subject.

  17. Brent Glines says:

    Fair enough. Cheers.

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