Obama “accommodation”: Insurers must cover contraception at no cost to … anyone?; Update: “Magical thinking,” says LA Times

posted at 1:20 pm on February 10, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

Today, the Obama administration hastily called a press conference to announce a change to its HHS mandate for employers to cover contraception at no cost, including religious organizations whose doctrines oppose contraception and abortifacients.  Instead of religious organizations footing the bill directly, the revised “accommodation” now says that insurers must cover the costs, which changes … nothing:

The revised Obama mandate will make religious groups contract with insurers to offer birth control and the potentially abortion-causing drugs to women at no cost. The revised mandate will have religious employers refer women to their insurance company for coverage that still violates their moral and religious beliefs. Under this plan, every insurance company will be obligated to provide coverage at no cost.

Essentially, religious groups will still be mandated to offer plans that cover both birth control and the ella abortion drug

According to Obama administration officials on a conference call this morning, a woman’s insurance company “will be required to reach out directly and offer her contraceptive care free of charge. The religious institutions will not have to pay for it.”

The birth control and abortion-causing drugs will simply be “part of the bundle of services that all insurance companies are required to offer,” White House officials said.

So these employers will still have to provide the health insurance, and the health insurance must cover the contraception and abortifacients.  The White House apparently wants t pretend that the funds for these outlays will come off of the Unobtanium Tree, where insurers find money to cover all mandates.  This exposes once again a stunning ignorance of risk pools and how costs are passed along to consumers.

Let’s just take this one step at a time.  Where do insurers get money to pay claims?  They collect premiums and co-pays from the insured group or risk pool.  No matter what the Obama administration wants to say now, the money that will cover those contraception costs will come from the religious organizations that must now by law buy that insurance and pay those premiums.  Their religious doctrines have long-standing prohibitions against participating in contraception and abortion, and nothing in this “accommodation” changes the fact that the government is now forcing them to both fund and facilitate access to products and services that offend their practice of religion.

Basically, the Obama administration told religious organizations to stop complaining and get in line.  This “accommodation” only attempts to accommodate Obama’s political standing and nothing more.

Update: The LA Times’ Jon Healy calls this new position “magical thinking”:

Here’s where the magical thinking comes in. The following is from the fact sheet the White House released Friday:

Covering contraception saves money for insurance companies by keeping women healthy and preventing spending on other health services. For example, there was no increase in premiums when contraception was added to the Federal Employees Health Benefit System and required of non-religious employers in Hawaii. One study found that covering contraception lowered premiums by 10 percent or more.

Making everyone in a pool carry coverage whether they need it or not spreads the cost, saving money for those who really do need it and who’d choose to carry it if it were merely optional. But costs faced by the insurer are the same — and when the care is provided with no out-of-pocket costs, the insurer’s costs are likely to go up because more people will use it. Such is likely to be the case with contraception.

Also, let me emphasize one point that this does not address.  The government is forcing religious organizations to both pay for and facilitate activities that violate their religious doctrine.  If anyone thinks that passes muster with the First Amendment, that’s even more magical thinking than this funding shell game.

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