After his plan to force religious institutions to provide free birth control and abortion to employees drew howls of protest, the president announced a climb-down today, in the form of a “compromise.” Frankly, however, I can’t figure out what it is. The New York Post reports:
Under the new approach, insurance companies, rather than religious organizations, will be obligated to offer contraception for free to the institutions’ employees.
“The result will be that religious organizations won’t have to pay for these services, and no religious institution will have to provide these services directly,” Obama, who was flanked by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, said at the White House. “Under the rule, women will still have access to free preventive care. That includes contraceptive services no matter where they work.”
This makes no sense. First, there is no possible constitutional basis on which the federal government can order insurance companies to provide specified services for free. Second, the idea that the cost of contraception and abortion services will be borne by insurance companies is absurd. Obviously, insurance companies will quote premiums based on the total cost of the coverage in the proposed policy. If the policy includes contraception and abortion, those costs will be included in the premium, regardless of whether those particular services are designated as “free” to the employee and/or the employer. It is the employee, of course, who ultimately bears the cost, as the total cost of health insurance–including the “free” parts–is included in the employee’s compensation.
As happens so often with the Obama administration, one is left wondering: how dumb do they think we are?
UPDATE: More here.