Obamacare’s Great Awakening

The Wall Street Journal has published a great editorial on the problem with the HHS regulation requiring the provision of free contraception, sterilizattion and abortifacients in health care insurance required to be provided to the employees of all but a narrowly circumscribed set of Church employers. The problem here is not the narrow ambit of the regulatory exception to the Obamacare requirement, but rather with Obamacare itself:

The entire thrust of ObamaCare is to standardize benefits and how they must be paid for and provided, regardless of individual choices or ethical convictions.

To take a small example: The HHS rule prohibits out-of-pocket costs for birth control, simply because Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’s regulators believe no woman should have to pay anything for it. To take a larger example: The Obama Administration’s legal defense of the mandate to buy insurance or else pay a penalty is that the mere fact of being alive gives the government the right to regulate all Americans at every point in their lives.

Practicing this kind of compulsion is routine and noncontroversial within Ms. Sebelius’s ministry. That may explain why her staff didn’t notice that the birth-control rule abridges the First Amendment’s protections for religious freedom. Then again, maybe HHS thought the public had become inured to such edicts, which have arrived every few weeks since the Affordable Care Act passed.

Bad call. The decision has roused the Catholic bishops from their health-care naivete, but they’ve been joined by people of all faiths and even no faith, as it becomes clear that their own deepest moral beliefs may be thrown over eventually. Contraception is the single most prescribed medicine for women between 18 and 44 years old, and nine of 10 insurers and employers already cover it. Yet HHS still decided to rub it in the face of religious hospitals.

To the point:

The HHS diktat isn’t something unique to President Obama. It is the political essence of government-run medicine. When politics determines who can or should receive what benefits, and who pays what for it, government will use its force to dictate the outcomes that it wants—either for reasons of cost, or to promote its values, which in this case means that “women’s health” trumps religious conscience.

If Mr. Romney can’t make the obvious connection between this infringement of American values and all the other infringements that are inherent in government health care, then he needs better political advisers.

***

The White House is now trying to cauterize the political damage and saying it is open to some “compromise” on its own contraception decision. But the rule is already final. HHS tried to sell it as a compromise when it was announced, and in any case HHS would revive this coercion whenever it is politically convenient some time in Mr. Obama’s second term. Religious liberty won’t be protected from the entitlement state until ObamaCare is repealed.

The heading of the editorial — “Obamacare’s Great Awakening” — is optimistic, and I hope the optimism is warranted, but about that I’m dubious.

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