Posts

FPIW Signs Letter Asking Congress to Adopt Pro-life Healthcare Reforms

Recognizing the potential for unprecedented action on healthcare reform during the 115th US Congress, several pro-life organizations have delivered a letter to legislators, calling on them to ensure that any healthcare reforms prohibit federal taxpayer dollars from being used for abortion.

Joseph Backholm, President of Family Policy Institute of Washington, signed on to the letter, joining representatives from Family Research Council, Priests for Life, American Center for Law and Justice, National Right to Life, Christian Medical Association, Students for Life of America, and dozens of other pro-life organizations.

Congress is currently considering several legislative proposals to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. The letter, which was delivered to Republican Members of Congress today, reminds them that “any bill funding healthcare must carry restrictions on abortion funding or it will end up funding the brutal practice of abortion.”

“We are greatly encouraged by the many Republican healthcare proposals that embrace the principle that abortion is not healthcare and should not be incentivized through federal healthcare programs including tax credits for health insurance,” the letter says.

The letter can be read in its entirety here.

 

 

Conscience Protections and the Affordable Care Act

Last month’s report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) — the independent government agency that investigates the use of federal funds — cast suspicion over President Obama’s promise that the Affordable Care Act would not undo conscience laws prohibiting the use of federal dollars to fund abortions.

The GAO reported that many plans offered through the state exchanges include abortion coverage.  A large percentage of consumers — both low – and middle – income families — who purchase insurance through these exchanges will receive federal subsidies for their coverage, but of the eighteen insurance providers surveyed by the GAO, not one was collecting a separate fee for abortion insurance.

In our state, the Washington Health Benefit Exchange is the online marketplace where residents purchase health insurance conforming to the requirements of the ACA.  If you qualify for federal subsidies, they will be sent directly to the insurance company on your behalf.

So how does Washington State ensure that taxpayers like you and I are not paying for abortions?  While the topic of abortion rights and funding was a point of strong contention in passing the ACA, it is oddly absent on the Washington Health Benefit Exchange website (wahealthplanfinder.org).  On this site, consumers can enter information about themselves to get price estimates for insurance plans.  There is no question about abortion coverage.  It is also missing on the website of the Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner (insurance.wa.gov).  A prominent page on the Insurance Commissioner’s site is titled “What determines how much you’ll pay in premiums.”  Listed below are seven factors, including whether you smoke and whether you qualify for federal subsidies.  Not a word about abortion.

Those who direct the Washington Health Benefit Exchange say that abortion coverage fees required by the ACA will be collected by the IRS.  This is their plan for the tax years 2014 and 2015.  By 2016 they hope to implement a system that collects this fee in a more direct manner.

If you are still following me, you are probably wondering a few things:  Why are they collecting the abortion insurance premiums in such a roundabout way?  And why aren’t they informing women that they will pay extra for abortion coverage?  Won’t these women be surprised and frustrated when, come tax season, they find out they must pay for something they thought was included in the original price?

Or maybe you’re thinking, “Did I unwittingly purchase a plan that includes abortion coverage?  Am I going to be charged for something I never wanted?”  Since most plans include abortion coverage, presumably some women who would never consider getting an abortion may purchase a plan that covers abortion because it has other features that are desirable.  They probably do not know that they will be charged an additional fee for this insurance.

Bill Hinkle is a former state legislator, a pro-life Republican and one of eleven board members of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange.  He insists that our state’s apparent negligence on this front is the result of technical issues.

The state’s website was already designed when the laws regarding abortion coverage were passed, he explained.  “The way our system was set up, we didn’t have any way to do it,” he said.  “I wish it was just some simple accounting thing, but it’s not.”

Hinkle added, “It doesn’t mean that we are not in keeping with the spirit of the law.  There’s nothing political about it.”

That may be the case.  A year after it began to take effect, still no one seems to fully understand the Affordable Care Act or what its final implementation will be.  For concerned citizens, it’s more important than ever to wade through tedious details to stay informed and hold government accountable.   We are living in a new era: Government of the experts, by the experts and perhaps for the experts.  Which makes our task clear—become an expert.

Why Do Nuns Need Birth Control?

When the Supreme Court released their decision in Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius on Monday it started the race to understand what it means for the other challenges to the contraceptive mandate in Obamacare.

The Hobby Lobby case established that the mandate violates the religious freedom of private, family owned companies, but a number of religiously affiliated non-profit organizations have challenged the mandate as well.

Obamacare includes an exemption from the mandate for churches, but that does not extend to thousands of religiously affiliated organizations like hospitals, colleges, universities, religious schools, and charities.

For example, Tyndale House Publishing, which is owned by the nonprofit Tyndale House Foundation and is the largest Bible publisher in the world, has been deemed not religious enough to be exempt.

Another non-profit organization that does not want to be forced to purchase contraception in their insurance plans is Little Sisters of the Poor, an international organization of Catholic nuns that cares for elderly poor people.

They have filed a lawsuit claiming that the requirement to provide contraceptive coverage violates their religious freedom.

In an effort to accommodate religious organizations without exempting them, the Obama Administration has told Little Sisters to sign a letter that the organization’s employees (nuns) could then use to obtain birth control coverage.

However, Little Sisters has argued that signing a letter that someone else would use to obtain birth control makes them complicit in something they believe is wrong.

The Department of Health and Human Services responded by claiming that Little Sisters should not object to signing the letter because it does not make them a party to the transaction but only releases them from the obligation of providing birth control themselves.

But the premise is wrong.

If the free exercise of religion means anything, it means the government doesn’t get to tell the people what is important to them as a matter of conscience, they get to honor it.

When the government tells you what beliefs are approved, that looks much more like an establishment of religion rather than the free exercise of it.

The good news is that the Hobby Lobby decision rejected the idea that government can decide for individuals when an action is morally objectionable.

Justice Alito, in the majority opinion, wrote, “[The objection to the mandate] implicates a difficult and important question of religion and moral philosophy, namely, the circumstances under which it is wrong for a person to perform an act that is innocent in itself but that has the effect of enabling or facilitating the commission of an immoral act by another.  Arrogating the authority to provide a binding national answer to this religious and philosophical question, HHS and the principal dissent in effect tell the plaintiffs that their beliefs are flawed.  For good reason, we have repeatedly refused to take such a step.”

He continued, “it is not for us to say that their religious beliefs are mistaken or insubstantial.”

This seems like good news for Little Sisters of the Poor.

The government’s argument that religious organizations should be content with the accommodation being offered appears to have been rejected on the grounds that the government doesn’t get to dictate to its subjects err… the people…what is acceptable to them on moral grounds.

If, as we hope they will, the Supreme Court agrees that the contraception mandate violates the religious freedom of non-profit organizations as well, then we can go back to figuring out who thought it was critical to guarantee birth control coverage for an order of nuns in the first place.

Today We Are All a Little More Free

Today we are all a little more free.

In a historic victory for religious freedom, the Supreme Court ruled, in a 5-4 decision, that Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood cannot be forced to pay for early abortion drugs for employees.

The Obamacare mandate at issue requires, among other things, that twenty different contraceptive methods be covered by employer insurance.  Two families, the Greens and the Hahns, objected to four of the specified contraceptive methods on moral grounds.

So they went to court and argued that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which was passed by Congress in 1993, protects them from being forced to violate their conscience.  In response, the Obama Administration argued that RFRA only protected the rights of individuals and not of for profit companies.

Today, the Supreme Court agreed with the families by concluding that, at least in this case, RFRA protects decisions made by these families in their business life as well as their private life.

In essence, the court said that people do not automatically surrender their religious freedom when they start a business and become job creators.

This decision is particularly significant for Washington businesses like the Everett based Electric Mirror, which filed an amicus brief at the Supreme Court in support of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood.

Electric Mirror is owned and operated by the Mischel family who are committed evangelical Christians. One member of their family, Aaron Mischel, was adopted after his birth mother was convinced not to go through with a planned abortion.

They do not provide abortion coverage or pay for contraception that covers abortion in the health insurance plans for their employees.

Electric Mirror President Jim Mischel, the brother of Aaron Mischel, explains, “Our desire to promote life and protect the most innocent among us is not just theoretical for businesses like ours, it is deeply personal.  We consider it a responsibility and a privilege to do everything we can to take care of our employees and their families, but that does not extend to helping them do things we believe are wrong.  The fact that the law gives you the right to do something should not mean that I, as your employer, am obligated to participate in it with you.  We are thankful that the Supreme Court acknowledged that my beliefs and my business are not separate.”

Justice Alito, who wrote the majority opinion, shared this sentiment,  “It is not for the Court to say that the religious beliefs of the plaintiff are mistaken or unreasonable.”

Abortion industry advocates dislike the decision because they claim it allows employers to get in between the relationship of a doctor and the patient.

In reality, however, employers want to stay out of their employees’ doctor’s office but the mandate attempts to pull them, kicking and screaming, into the consultation room so they can pay the bill.

You may have the right to own a shotgun, but your boss shouldn’t be required to buy one for you.

Employers should be free to offer compensation packages that are acceptable to them and employees should be free to work for whomever they want.  If the parties cannot agree, both should be free to find a better fit.

When government decrees prevail, only those who agree with the decree win.  When individuals retain the right to make decisions for themselves, everyone wins.  Giving the government power over the individual because they’ll use it in a way we like is not a long-term plan to peace and prosperity.  That sword always ends up having two edges.

We can all be thankful for this important decision, but there is still a long way to go.

Tonight, say a prayer for the Greens, the Hahns, and the Mischels whose involvement in these cases have resulted in all of us being a little more free today than we were yesterday.  Then consider what you’re willing to do to protect our religious freedom.  After all, freedom isn’t free and we can’t ask them to do all the work.

Stay tuned, tomorrow we will look at what this means for florists and pharmacists who are also in court trying to protect their religious freedom.

Your contribution of $5 or more makes it possible for us to protect religious freedom here in Washington State.

Relationship Lessons from Obamacare

 The challenging roll-out of the ironically named Affordable Care Act has been well documented.Needless to say, things haven’t gone according to plan.  Not only is it hard to sign up for, it appears that the average family isn’t going to save $2,500 a year on health care premiums, some of the best hospitals aren’t covered, and lots of doctors won’t accept those who are covered by it. And, you can’t necessarily keep your health insurance if you like it.The President is paying the price politically.  His approval ratings are now in the 30’s and it appears that “leg tingle” is now an itch.But he really shouldn’t be surprised.  None of us should.

The way Obamacare became law all but guaranteed that, unless it was executed perfectly (and really when does that happen?) it was going to damage his relationship with the American people.

That isn’t a political statement, it’s a recognition of the fact that there are rules that govern relationships-including political ones.

Before we get too self-righteous, many of us guys have taken our own relationships down a similar path.  That’s why the divorce rate is what it is.

We dress the part, use the focus group tested messages, and tell her everything we know she wants to hear because we just can’t stand the thought of being without her. And then we win.  We put a ring on it.  Yes!

And there’s always a honeymoon phase before the complications arise. It turns out that she actually remembers all those promises we made during the campaign, err…while we were dating.  Even worse, she actually expects us to do it!

It’s kind of hip to be hard on the President these days, but let’s face it, many of us aren’t any better at home.   So here are a few lessons from Obamacare that may help keep that leg tingling for that special someone in your life.

1.     Don’t hide the inconvenient facts:  It is perhaps the defining statement of his Presidency.  “If you like your health care you can keep it.  Period.”  But it wasn’t true and there is significant evidence to suggest he knew it wasn’t true.

But how often do we omit relevant information or “spin” the facts in the way that we think will make things easier in the short-term?  The problem with this strategy is that the short-term is going to come to an end, shortly.  And then you’ll have to deal with the fact that people don’t trust you. It’s not worth it.

2.     If you can’t share the credit, you can’t share the blame: There are lots of benefits to making decisions together, but the ability to share responsibility when things go wrong is one that is often over looked.  This is important because things go wrong-a lot.

One of Obama’s challenges with ObamaCare is that he is entirely responsible for it. It has his name on it, literally.  It would be helpful for him at this point to be able to solicit help from all the Republican members of Congress who also voted for it.  But he can’t because there aren’t any.

Yes, it’s fun to be able stand up in front of your wife and say “I did that.”  But it may not be worth the risk of having to stand in front of her, while she looks at you with one eye-brow raised as if to say “You did that?”

3.     You can’t maintain a lasting relationship with someone if you view them as an adversary: It’s fair to say that the rhetoric on both sides of the Obamacare debate sometimes became less than civil.  Those who supported ObamaCare were communists and those who opposed it wanted sick people to die and go bankrupt in the process.

Many arguments with our spouses work in much the same way.  If we men try to resolve a particular conflict by shaming our wives into giving up, the chances of them working cooperatively with us later aren’t awesome.

Conflict is inevitable, but making enemies is not.  It is not only possible to assume the best about your spouse in the midst of conflict, it should be expected.

4.     Understanding is demonstrated by actions, not words: Yes, the President had health care summits that were highly publicized and highly politicized.  But at the end of the day, none of the proposals offered by more conservative voices in Congress were included in the final version of ObamaCare.

I shouldn’t expect my wife to feel understood simply because I sat politely while she expressed herself.  If my behavior or decisions don’t reflect an understanding of what she feels, it won’t matter.

Of course it isn’t always possible to give people what they want and it’s important to be able to act like adults when we don’t get our way.  But when you face the prospect of winning through force rather than consensus, take a moment and consider which is most important: the person or the issue.  If the person is more important, that may not be the way you want to win.

It is possible to lose even when you win.  Just ask the President.

There is a qualifier to all of this. If you don’t care to maintain a healthy relationship with the person you’re dealing with, by all means push as hard as you can until you get your way.

You may accomplish everything you ever set out to do, but you’ll likely leave a trail of broken relationships behind you.  Life will come to an end for all of us eventually. I pity the man for whom, at the end of his life, the best thing that can be said about him was that he was the winner.

Improvements in the WA Senate?

In a State Senate race that was one of the most expensive legislative races in Washington State history, Republican Rep. Jan Angel is narrowly leading Democratic Sen. Nathan Schlicher in the 26th district covering Kitsap and parts of Pierce County.

While only 770 votes currently separate the candidates, that margin is expected to hold.

This was a special election to fill the Senate seat vacated by Derek Kilmer when he was elected to Congress.

If Angel wins, this result will have significant implications for the balance of power in the State Senate.  It would bring the Republicans within one vote of a majority in the Senate at 25-24.  However, since two Democrats joined with the Republicans in the last session to form a Majority Coalition, this would actually expand the current functional majority to 26-23.

For several years, the dynamic in the state legislature is that the Senate is the place where far left ideas from the downtown Seattle led House of Representatives go to die.  This result will only increase the likelihood of that continuing, at least for one more year.

For example, the abortion industry’s priority legislation, which would force every insurance policy bought and sold in Washington State to cover abortion even if the consumer doesn’t want it, was narrowly defeated in the Senate during the last session. It now appears to have an even tougher road in 2014.  Angel voted against that bill in the House while Schlicher had signed a public letter indicating his intention to support it.

Schlicher, a physician and strong proponent of the Affordable Care Act, was also opposed to a law requiring parents to be notified if their minor daughter intended to get an abortion; an idea Angel supports.

Another bill, giving a third-party a cause of action to get visitation with other people’s children over the objection of the parents, will also find a more difficult path forward as a result of this election.

The difference of 770 votes once again highlights the reality that relatively small groups of people have a significant impact on the public policy for the whole state.

The Majority Coalition that prevented passage of several of these bills in the last session was only possible because Don Benton, from Vancouver, won his Senate race by 37 votes in 2012.

This race was unusual because it also involved a California billionaire, environmentalist dumping hundreds of thousands of his own dollars attacking Angel.  It remains to be seen whether he will be back in 2014 when this seat will once again be up for election-this time for four years.

In lower profile races involving only Republicans, two other special elections for the state Senate were held yesterday as well.

In those races, Sen. Sharon Brown defeated Phillip Lemley for election to a seat she had been appointed to in the 8th district, in Tri-Cities. In the 7th district, covering northeastern Washington, Ferry County Commissioner Brian Dansel defeated Sen. John Smith, who had served one year after being appointed to replace former Sen. Bob Morton.

Does the Punishment Fit the Crime?

Does the punishment fit the crime?

This question addresses an issue of proportionality.  Greater offenses should have greater punishments. It wouldn’t be just to punish jaywalking in the same way we punish murder.

In most cases, you can tell how serious an offense is based on the severity of the penalty.

That’s why the penalties built into Obamacare are so curious.

As you know, Obamacare has a number of mandates.  Individuals are required to purchase health insurance and businesses with more than 50 employees are mandated to buy insurance for them.

In addition, the policies that the businesses purchase for their employees must include contraceptive coverage. This has been a point of serious contention for the Catholic Church and businesses like Hobby Lobby that are morally opposed to contraceptives.

Still, businesses are required to buy insurance for their employees and it must cover contraceptives.

Of these two requirements,which is most important?

Another way of asking this question is, will you be punished more severely for providing no insurance at all or for providing insurance without contraceptive coverage?

The answer might surprise you.

If a company does not pay for health insurance for its employees, it is fined $2,000 per employee, per year.  So a company that provided no insurance for 50 employees would be fined $100,000 a year.

However, the fine for purchasing health insurance that does not include contraceptive coverage is $100 per employee, per day, which works out to be $36,500 per employee, per year.  So, if that same company with 50 employees purchased great health insurance for its employees but choose not to purchase contraceptive coverage, they would be fined $1,825,000 a year.

According to the penalties built into Obamacare, providing insurance without covering contraceptives is an offense 18 times more serious than providing no health insurance at all.

That makes sense, right?

Ok, not really.

In isolation, you might chalk this kind of thing up to rushed legislation; a detail missed in the spirit of “we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.”

But it would be irresponsible to view this in isolation.

When you view the bizarre punitive system built into Obamacare with the stories of floristsphotographers,bakers, and nurses, who have all faced legal or professional penalties because of their views about controversial social issues, a theme begins to develop.

The goal is not simply to create the policy they prefer, but to embed within the policy ways to punish those who disagree.

They don’t simply want to allow same-sex couples to get “married”.  They want to close businesses owned by people who disagree with their view on marriage.

They don’t simply want women to have access to abortion and contraception.  They want to make sure every medical professional and business person supports the agenda.

This is why the top priority of the abortion industry in Washington State is a bill to mandate that every insurance policy bought and sold in Washington will cover abortion.  Even though every insurance company in Washington already covers abortion for those who want it, the prospect that someone might choose not to purchase abortion coverage is problematic.

They are frustrated that moral disapproval of abortion lingers despite decades of insistence that it’s just another health care service and, frankly, they don’t want to deal with it anymore.

The goal of creating a world in which everyone thinks like them will never be accomplished if people are allowed to express ideas that are different from theirs.

Because of this, providing excellent health insurance without abortion or contraceptive coverage is actually worse than providing no insurance at all.

That’s why they have to make sure the punishment fits the crime.