Category Archives: Health care

USCCB responds to inaccurate statement of fact on HHS mandate

Whoops, guess the Catholic bishops are not too happy about Vice President Biden’s dissembling during the debate last night (although, strangely, they don’t say who said this–trying to be politically neutral? Hey, a fact’s a fact: Biden said it, he needs to own it):

Last night, the following statement was made during the Vice Presidential debate regarding the decision of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to force virtually all employers to include sterilization and contraception, including drugs that may cause abortion, in the health insurance coverage they provide their employees:

“With regard to the assault on the Catholic Church, let me make it absolutely clear. No religious institution—Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital—none has to either refer contraception, none has to pay for contraception, none has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide. That is a fact. That is a fact.”

This is not a fact. The HHS mandate contains a narrow, four-part exemption for certain “religious employers.” That exemption was made final in February and does not extend to “Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital,” or any other religious charity that offers its services to all, regardless of the faith of those served.

HHS has proposed an additional “accommodation” for religious organizations like these, which HHS itself describes as “non-exempt.” That proposal does not even potentially relieve these organizations from the obligation “to pay for contraception” and “to be a vehicle to get contraception.” They will have to serve as a vehicle, because they will still be forced to provide their employees with health coverage, and that coverage will still have to include sterilization, contraception, and abortifacients. They will have to pay for these things, because the premiums that the organizations (and their employees) are required to pay will still be applied, along with other funds, to cover the cost of these drugs and surgeries.

USCCB continues to urge HHS, in the strongest possible terms, actually to eliminate the various infringements on religious freedom imposed by the mandate.

For more details, please see USCCB’s regulatory comments filed on May 15 regarding the proposed “accommodation”: www.usccb.org/about/general-counsel/rulemaking/upload/comments-on-advance-notice-of-proposed-rulemaking-on-preventive-services-12-05-15.pdf

Check it out.

Who shares your values?

Cardinal Burke explains: Catholic employers cannot provide contraceptive coverage because they would be materially and formally cooperating with sin

From Renew America, on Thomas McKenna’s interview with Cardinal Raymond Burke on EWTN’s Catholic Action Insight:

Thomas McKenna: “It is beautiful to see how the faithful have rallied behind the Hierarchy….How does your Eminence comment on the union of solidarity of our bishops?”

Cardinal Burke: “Yes, I have received emails and other communications from lay faithful who say that they are supporting their bishops 100% and they have communicated to their bishops their gratitude and assured them that they want them to continue to be courageous and not to be deceived by any kind of false accommodations which in fact continue this same kind of agenda which sadly we have witnessed for too long in our country which is totally secular and therefore is anti-life and anti-family. I admire very much the courage of the bishops. At the same time I believe they would say it along with me that they are doing no more than their duty. A bishop has to protect his flock and when any individual or government attempts to force the flock to act against conscience in one of its most fundamental precepts then the bishops have to come to defend those who are entrusted to their pastoral care. So I am deeply grateful to all of the bishops who have spoken about this and who are encouraging the members of their flock to also speak up because our government needs to understand that what is being done with this mandate is contrary first of all to the fundamental human right, the right to the free exercise of one’s conscience and at the same time contrary to the very foundation of our nation.”

Thomas McKenna: “So a Catholic employer, really getting down to it, he does not, or she does not provide this because that way they would be, in a sense, cooperating with the sin…the sin of contraception or the sin of providing a contraceptive that would abort a child, is this correct?”

Cardinal Burke: “This is correct. It is not only a matter of what we call “material cooperation” in the sense that the employer by giving this insurance benefit is materially providing for the contraception but it is also “formal cooperation” because he is knowingly and deliberately doing this, making this available to people. There is no way to justify it. It is simply wrong.”…

Read it all, and check out the entire interview here.

USCCB: Our first, most cherished liberty

From the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:

…As Catholic bishops and American citizens, we address an urgent summons to our fellow Catholics and fellow Americans to be on guard, for religious liberty is under attack, both at home and abroad.

This has been noticed both near and far. Pope Benedict XVI recently spoke about his worry that religious liberty in the United States is being weakened. He called it the “most cherished of American freedoms”—and indeed it is. All the more reason to heed the warning of the Holy Father, a friend of America and an ally in the defense of freedom, in his recent address to American bishops…

Is our most cherished freedom truly under threat? Sadly, it is. This is not a theological or legal dispute without real world consequences. Consider the following:

  • HHS mandate for contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs. The mandate of the Department of Health and Human Services has received wide attention and has been met with our vigorous and united opposition. In an unprecedented way, the federal government will both force religious institutions to facilitate and fund a product contrary to their own moral teaching and purport to define which religious institutions are “religious enough” to merit protection of their religious liberty. These features of the “preventive services” mandate amount to an unjust law. As Archbishop-designate William Lori of Baltimore, Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, testified to Congress: “This is not a matter of whether contraception may be prohibited by the government. This is not even a matter of whether contraception may be supported by the government. Instead, it is a matter of whether religious people and institutions may be forced by the government to provide coverage for contraception or sterilization, even if that violates their religious beliefs.”…
  • Christian students on campus. In its over-100-year history, the University of California Hastings College of Law has denied student organization status to only one group, the Christian Legal Society, because it required its leaders to be Christian and to abstain from sexual activity outside of marriage.
  • Catholic foster care and adoption services. Boston, San Francisco, the District of Columbia, and the state of Illinois have driven local Catholic Charities out of the business of providing adoption or foster care services—by revoking their licenses, by ending their government contracts, or both—because those Charities refused to place children with same-sex couples or unmarried opposite-sex couples who cohabit.
  • Discrimination against small church congregations. New York City enacted a rule that barred the Bronx Household of Faith and sixty other churches from renting public schools on weekends for worship services even though non-religious groups could rent the same schools for scores of other uses. While this would not frequently affect Catholic parishes, which generally own their own buildings, it would be devastating to many smaller congregations. It is a simple case of discrimination against religious believers.
  • Discrimination against Catholic humanitarian services. Notwithstanding years of excellent performance by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services in administering contract services for victims of human trafficking, the federal government changed its contract specifications to require us to provide or refer for contraceptive and abortion services in violation of Catholic teaching. Religious institutions should not be disqualified from a government contract based on religious belief, and they do not somehow lose their religious identity or liberty upon entering such contracts. And yet a federal court in Massachusetts, turning religious liberty on its head, has since declared that such a disqualification is required by the First Amendment—that the government somehow violates religious liberty by allowing Catholic organizations to participate in contracts in a manner consistent with their beliefs on contraception and abortion….

What is at stake is whether America will continue to have a free, creative, and robust civil society—or whether the state alone will determine who gets to contribute to the common good, and how they get to do it….

This is not a Catholic issue. This is not a Jewish issue. This is not an Orthodox, Mormon, or Muslim issue. It is an American issue….

Read it all.

York: To Obama, legal precedents are all about politics

From Byron York at the Washington Examiner:

In 1996 Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act by huge bipartisan votes — 342 to 67 in the House and 85 to 14 in the Senate. President Bill Clinton signed the measure into law.

Now, the Obama administration says DOMA, which permits states to refuse to recognize gay marriages from other states and also creates a federal definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman, is unconstitutional. In Boston on Wednesday, Stuart Delery, an attorney for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, urged the First Circuit Court of Appeals to find DOMA violates the Constitution by discriminating against gays and lesbians. “I’m not here to defend [the law] on any standard,” Delery told the court.

What was striking about Delery’s request that a federal court strike down DOMA was that just a day or two before, President Obama railed at the very notion that a federal court would strike down any law passed by Congress….

If the president was so concerned about a court overturning a duly constituted law passed by a democratically elected Congress, why was he urging a small group of unelected judges to strike down DOMA, a measure that won passage by a far greater margin than Obamacare?

The answer is, of course, that the administration is making a political argument for its positions, not a legal one. And perhaps counterproductively, the president’s decision to bring up Obamacare’s history in Congress could end up reminding the public of the tangled circumstances of its passage. Even with a huge majority in the House, Democrats barely passed the bill in the face of bipartisan opposition. And in the Senate, Obamacare succeeded as the result of a set of freakish circumstances that allowed Democrats to pass an unpopular measure into law….

*sigh* It’s always the hypocrisy that gets me. Read it all.

Cardinal Dolan: “‘radical,’ ‘unprecedented’ and ‘dramatically intrusive'”

From James Taranto at the Wall Street Journal:

The president of the U.S. Conference of Bishops is careful to show due respect for the president of the United States. “I was deeply honored that he would call me and discuss these things with me,” says the newly elevated Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York. But when Archbishop Dolan tells me his account of their discussions of the ObamaCare birth-control mandate, Barack Obama sounds imperious and deceitful to me….

“So you can imagine the chagrin,” Archbishop Dolan continues, “when [the president] called me at the end of January to say that the mandates remain in place and that there would be no substantive change, and that the only thing that he could offer me was that we would have until August. . . . I said, ‘Mr. President, I appreciate the call. Are you saying now that we have until August to introduce to you continual concerns that might trigger a substantive mitigation in these mandates?’ He said, ‘No, the mandates remain. We’re more or less giving you this time to find out how you’re going to be able to comply.’ I said, ‘Well, sir, we don’t need the [extra time]. I can tell you now we’re unable to comply.'”

Archbishop Dolan explains that the “accommodation” solves nothing, since most church-affiliated organizations either are self-insured or purchase coverage from Catholic insurance companies like Christian Brothers Services and Catholic Mutual Group, which also see the mandate as “morally toxic.” He argues that the mandate also infringes on the religious liberty of nonministerial organizations like the Knights of Columbus and Catholic-oriented businesses such as publishing houses, not to mention individuals, Catholic or not, who conscientiously object.

“We’ve grown hoarse saying this is not about contraception, this is about religious freedom,” he says. What rankles him the most is the government’s narrow definition of a religious institution….

“We find it completely unswallowable, both as Catholics and mostly as Americans, that a bureau of the American government would take it upon itself to define ‘ministry,'” Archbishop Dolan says. “We would find that to be—we’ve used the words ‘radical,’ ‘unprecedented’ and ‘dramatically intrusive.'”

It also amounts to penalizing the church for not discriminating in its good works: “We don’t ask people for their baptismal certificate, nor do we ask people for their U.S. passport, before we can serve them, OK? . . . We don’t serve people because they’re Catholic, we serve them because we are, and it’s a moral imperative for us to do so.”…

The archbishop sees a parallel irony in his dispute with Mr. Obama: “This is a strange turn of the table, that here a Catholic cardinal is defending religious freedom, the great proposition of the American republic, and the president of the United States seems to be saying that this is a less-than-important issue.”…

Read it all.

Mead: The health care disaster and the miseries of blue

From Walter Russell Mead:

…Obamacare was supposed to be the capstone in the arch of a new progressive era. The Dems were going to show us all that government really does work. Smart government by smart people, using modern methods and the latest up to the minute research from carefully peer reviewed articles in well regarded social science journals can solve big social problems. Obamacare was going to be such a big hit that even the bitter clingers would have to put down their guns and their Bibles long enough to thank the Democrats for this wonderful new benefaction.

But even if the Supreme Court doesn’t pull the trigger and kill the law in June, the darn thing won’t fly. The public hates it, and the longer it’s on the books the less popular it gets. This isn’t like Social Security, a program the public fell in love with early on and still cherishes today. It isn’t like Head Start, which remains dearly beloved even though there doesn’t seem to be much evidence that it helps anybody other than the people it employs. Obamacare is only marginally more popular than the Afghan War; already its estimated cost has doubled and we all know these numbers are likely to continue to increase. Obamacare so far is a political flop and shows ominous early signs of being a policy misfire as well. The benefits don’t seem to measure up to the hype, more people are going to lose their existing insurance, premiums are going up and the impact on the deficit is going to be worse.

This is a horrible piece of legislation — as misbegotten and useless to its friends as it is menacing to its enemies. The question is: why? Why did the blues write such a bad law?  Why, given a once in a lifetime chance to pass a program that Dems have longed to achieve ever since the New Deal, did they craft a sloppy mess that nobody understands and few admire, and then leave their law so unnecessarily vulnerable to constitutional challenge?

The answers tell us much about why blue progressive thinking is losing its hold on the body politic — and why blue methods generally aren’t working as well as they used to.

First, there is the question of complexity….

You can’t regulate something this complicated effectively by a government bureaucracy any more than you can regulate a rain forest by decree…

Then comes the second problem: the throngs of cooks that spoil the broth of progressive legislation these days….

No law that Congress passes affecting this many interests in this many ways will be less than a thousand pages long, and the bulk of those pages will be filled with carve outs, exemptions, special provisions and good old fashioned train robberies….

Read it all.

U.S. bishops set March 30 as day of prayer, fasting for religious liberty

From the Catholic News Herald (Diocese of Charlotte):

The U.S. bishops have urged Catholics and “all people of faith” across the nation to observe March 30 as a day of prayer and fasting for religious freedom and conscience protection.

The bishops announced the daylong observance in a statement titled “United for Religious Freedom” that was approved March 14 by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Administrative Committee.

They asked Catholics and others to join them in “prayer and penance for our leaders and for the complete protection of our first freedom — religious liberty — which is not only protected in the laws and customs of our great nation, but rooted in the teachings of our great tradition.”

The bishops said that among current threats to religious liberty is the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services mandate that forces employers, including religious ones, to provide coverage of contraception/sterilization in their health plans.

Prayer resources have been posted on the USCCB website, www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/conscience-protection/resources-on-conscience-protection.cfm….

Read it all and check out the resources available.

Catholic entities undermine U.S. bishops’ authority

From the National Catholic Register:

Recent headlines have told the story “Catholic Hospitals, Bishops Split on Health Care” and “Catholic Bishops Fight for Authority Over U.S. Flock.”

These volatile headlines refer to the fact that some Catholic individuals and organizations publicly disagree with the U.S. Bishops about provisions of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare. This opposition from within the Church makes the bishops’ effort to preserve religious freedom much more difficult, for the Obama administration and some Democrat Congressmen have been quick to use a “divide and conquer” strategy by invoking these dissident groups as if they are legitimate Catholic authorities.

The most prominent Catholic supporter of Obamacare has been the Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA), led by its president and CEO, Sister Carol Keehan, a Daughter of Charity. Playing a supporting role for her have been the officers of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) and the conference’s lobbying arm, Network. Sister Carol declined to be interviewed for this story….

Nevertheless, Sister Carol and the other high-profile sisters who have publicly opposed the bishops’ position have been hailed by Obamacare supporters as having legitimate moral authority in the Church to counter the bishops. For example, on March 8 — International Women’s Day — Sister Carol was named by the Center for American Progress as one of “13 Religious Women to Watch in 2012 Changing the World for Good” because: “She was instrumental in garnering support for the Affordable Care Act in 2010, when CHA broke with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to publicly support the act. As a result, Keehan gave moral permission to legislators who were conflicted about supporting the bill.”

So, what gives these sisters and the CHA authority to grant “moral permission” for disagreement with the nation’s bishops?

Nothing. Neither the sisters nor the CHA hold any authority to speak for the Church on faith and morals: That authority belongs to the bishops alone, as Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., told Catholic News Service during his recent ad limina visit to the Vatican. He said that his group of Midwestern bishops also spoke with Vatican officials about the public support of the CHA and LCWR for the so-called “accommodation” in the HHS mandate. The bishops have rejected the “accommodation” because it still requires religious institutions to provide insurance that covers immoral services.

“Those efforts are really undercutting the Church and trying to divide it again by setting up two teaching authorities when there’s only one within the Church,” Archbishop Naumann said. “It’s a very serious issue, I think, particularly when religious try to insert themselves in the role of trying to be the teachers within the Church. They have important roles to play but they are not the ones to teach on these matters.”…

Read it all.

‘This is tyranny’: Tens of thousands decry HHS mandate in 146 nationwide protests

Stand Up for Religious Freedom Rally in New York
From LifeSiteNews.com, a report on yesterday’s Stand Up for Religious Freedom rallies nationwide:

Tens of thousands of men and women gathered in 146 protests on Friday, joining a grassroots effort that organizers say grew far beyond expectations. The rallies were held to protest the Obama administration mandate forcing religious universities, charities, and other groups to pay for abortifacient drugs and other birth control for students and employees. …

According to the Friday rallies, the HHS mandate is not a birth control issue, but a religious freedom issue, and a challenge to fight that won’t be ignored.

One fulcrum of the national protests was Washington, D.C., where about 1,500-2,000 gathered on a hot and sunny afternoon before the Health and Human Services building. Beneath the windows of HHS offices was heard the chanting of “We will not comply,” car horns honking in solidarity, and the rallying cries of several prominent speakers, including Pat Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition, Kristan Hawkins of Students for Life, conservative activist Star Parker, and Lila Rose of Live Action.

Hawkins put the issue in blunt terms, stating simply, “This is tyranny.”

“We are being told that our beliefs, our conscience, no longer matters,” said the pro-life youth leader. “What stops them from targeting someone else next?”…

Read it all.

Conspiracy or just incompetence masquerading as?

I am not a conspiracy-theory enthusiast. I think it’s hard enough for one person to keep a secret, much less the dozens it would take to organize some of the most famous conspiracy-theory events out there.

So, yes, we did land men on the moon—more than once. (Can you imagine all of Houston keeping a secret?)

And, yes, the Twin Towers came down because they were plowed into by airplanes directed by Al-Qaeda terrorists, and yes. . .steel can melt.

(But I’m not touching the JFK assassination—even anti-conspiracy theorists know when to get out.)

So, I don’t go looking for conspiracies, especially in politics or government, but I am beginning to wonder if the U.S. government, especially the Executive Branch, is purposely targeting traditional Christians by making it difficult for churches to conduct their business, hold their meetings, travel unencumbered, and fulfill their mission of being Christ’s Body in the world. Here’s a list, just off the top of my head, of recent events:

*  Inclusion of the Holy See (the Vatican) on U.S. State Department’s 2012 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report.

From Catholic.org:

WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) – The US State Department has added an unlikely name to the list of countries that are considered money-laundering centers – the Vatican. The listing was published Wednesday in the 2012 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, and lists 190 countries.

The list is divided into three categories, primary concern, concern, and monitored. The Vatican has been listed with 67 other countries which also includes Poland, Egypt, Ireland, Hungary, and Chile.

A State Department official did confess that the Vatican had recently established programs to prevent money laundering….

In plain English, there is no accusation of wrongdoing, nor even evidence of it. The State Department merely sees the Vatican as a possible risk because of the large volumes of money processed through its banking system.

Now this is somewhat understandable. The Vatican has had financial problems in the past, which is why they are instituting changes. They are also in the “countries of concern” category, the middle group, primarily it seems because of the amount of money they handle, not because of any specific wrongdoing.

But then this happens, and you have to ask “why now?” since the Vatican has already taken steps to address its problems:

*  Closing by JP Morgan Chase of the Vatican’s account

From Reuters:

JP Morgan Chase (JPM.N) is closing the Vatican bank’s account with an Italian branch of the U.S. banking giant because of concerns about a lack of transparency at the Holy See’s financial institution, Italian newspapers reported.

The move is a blow to the Vatican’s drive to have its bank included in Europe’s “white list” of states that comply with international standards against tax fraud and money-laundering.

The bank, formally known as the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), enacted major reforms last year in an attempt to get Europe’s seal of approval and put behind it scandals that have included accusations of money laundering and fraud….

Last year, the Vatican adapted internal laws to comply with international standards on financial crime.

The 108-acre sovereign state surrounded by Rome now complies with the rules of the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

It also established an internal Financial Information Authority (FIA) along the lines of other countries and has committed to comply with international anti-money laundering standards and liaise with the group and law enforcement agencies….

JP Morgan’s actions are less understandable than those of the U.S. State Department. If the Vatican is in the midst of instituting reforms, why close their account? Investigations haven’t presented any new information and talk of money-laundering and tax fraud are still just allegations. Was there pressure, overt or implied, by the U.S. government?

* Concern about travel documents

The United Methodist Church has repeatedly on the international level upheld the traditional Christian understanding of marriage as between one man and one woman, despite ongoing attempts from various groups to allow for same-sex unions. Once again at their General Conference this April they will face this issue. In a write-up for First Things, Thomas C. Oden mentions in passing the ability of foreign delegates, especially those from Africa, to get the proper travel documents to attend the conference:

The struggle for the soul of the United Methodist Church has reached a decisive point. At every quadrennial national meeting since 1976, the issue of the ordination of partners in same-sex unions has been raised and defeated. Until now my church has not gone the way of the Episcopalians, the United Church of Christ, the mainline Presbyterians, and the Evangelical Lutherans. At the General Conference this April, Methodists face another battle over this issue, and the legislative outcome is in doubt. The contest will hinge on how many of the African delegates will get visas and on whether we can meld together the voices of evangelicals, moderates, overseas delegates, and centrist liberals who care about the future of the United Methodist Church and who wish to avoid a decade of devastating court challenges….

The presence of Christians from Africa and Asia is essential for the UMC to continue to uphold the biblical mandate on marriage. I wonder how many will get visas—I guess we’ll have to wait until April to see.

A paperwork hold-up did affect some long-scheduled Nigerian clergy unable to get visas to come to the U.S. for a religious conference earlier this year. Apparently, the State Department pointed to the security issues involved with Nigeria, which is a valid concern, but given the lead-time for the paperwork, questions remain.

*  Abridgement of First Amendments rights

And of course, the biggest area indicating that the administration is targeting traditional/conservative Christians is the mandate by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for all employers, religious or not, to pay for (either directly or indirectly) contraception, sterilization, and abortifacients. Or, as Timothy Cardinal Dolan of New York said in response to the 2013 deadline for compliance: “In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences.”

If religious freedom falls and the Catholic Church as well as other religious institutions pulls back from operating for all instead of just their own faithful, the government will have succeeded in keeping them from following Christ’s Great Commission, of imposing the State between people gathering together to help each other, and of gravely weakening all of our “inalienable” rights.

But I reassure myself that this can’t possibly be a conspiracy with the adage:

Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by incompetence.

And that goes double when dealing with government bureaucrats.

Protests against Obama mandate to take place in 129 cities


From LifeNews.com:

Thousands of pro-life advocates across the country will take part on Friday in “Stand Up for Religious Freedom” rallies taking place in more than 129 cities.

The rallies are meant as a public demonstration against the Obama mandate that requires religious organizations, churches and other objecting employers to pay for birth control and drugs that may cause abortions.

This makes this event one of the largest in American history with respect to simultaneous rallies occurring in cities across the nation and the main rally in the nation’s capital will be on the plaza of the HHS (Hubert Humphrey Building) on March 23, at 12:00 noon

“The HHS mandates and the issue of religious freedom have now ignited a political firestorm that will be a major issue in the 2012 Presidential Elections. In an odd way, President Obama’s forcing Christian institutions to violate their conscience and core beliefs has energized the faith community in a way that none of the republican candidates have yet been able to accomplish,” said [the Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, Director of the Christian Defense Coalition and one of the organizers of the rally in Washington, DC].

Polling data shows Americans are strongly opposed to the Obama mandate. A February Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds 38 percent of likely voters think health insurance companies should be required by law to cover the morning after pill without co-payments or other charges to the patient. But 50 percent of Americans disagree and oppose this requirement while 13 percent are undecided….

Read it all, and check here for rally locations.

WSJ: ObamaCare’s costs are soaring

An op-ed in the Wall Street Journal by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI):

…Now, two years out, I would like to focus on the budgetary disaster.

As a candidate, Barack Obama repeatedly claimed that his health-care plan would lower annual family health-insurance premiums by $2,500 before the end of his first term as president. But the Kaiser Family Foundation recently reported that the average family premium has increased $2,200 since the start of this administration.

Then there is the higher cost to taxpayers. The CBO’s initial estimate in March 2010 of ObamaCare’s budget impact showed it saving money, reducing the federal deficit by $143 billion in the first 10 years. But that positive estimate was largely the product of gimmicks inserted into the bill by Democratic leaders to hide the law’s true cost.

Sure enough, the administration last October announced it would not implement one of those gimmicks, a long-term care program called the Class Act, because it was financially unworkable. The loss of the premiums that would be collected to finance the Class Act wiped out $70 billion of the supposed deficit reduction projected by CBO. And last month the administration’s proposed fiscal 2013 budget included $111 billion in additional spending for the premium subsidies in the health law’s insurance exchanges—further eroding any confidence in the original ObamaCare projections.

The CBO originally estimated that one million Americans would lose their employer-sponsored care and be forced into the exchanges.

But a McKinsey & Co. study in June 2011 showed that 30%-50% of employers plan to stop offering health insurance to their employees once the health law is implemented in 2014. Last week the CBO breezily dismissed this and other studies on the ground that “it is doubtful that any survey conducted today could provide very accurate predictions of employers’ future decisions.”

As someone who purchased group health insurance for over 31 years, I fully understand why the McKinsey study is more credible than the CBO.

Why? Because the decision employers face under ObamaCare is straightforward: Do they pay $20,000 per year for family coverage, or do they pay the $2,000 penalty to the government?…

In reality, as government assumes a greater share of health-care costs, pressure to cut payments to providers will be enormous. Reduced government reimbursements to providers will cause massive cost-shifting to those remaining in the private health-insurance market. More employees will lose coverage. Before long, we will have what the left has long sought—a single payer health-care system modeled after Medicaid….

Read it all.

From a plea for choice to a roar of entitlement

From Debra Saunders at Real Clear Politics:

…But for the right, this is an issue of the Obama administration’s telling church-based groups that they must act against their deeply held beliefs. As House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy told me, the argument did not start with Congress. It was a response to Obama. “It wasn’t about birth control. It’s about religious freedom.”

The tables have turned. Abortion used to be a matter of choice. Ditto birth control. But now that they have considerable political power, the erstwhile choice advocates want to take away the choice of dissenters to opt out.

Choice is gone. Tolerance is musty memory. “Access” is the new buzzword — and access means free. Under Obamacare, employer-paid health plans can charge women copayments for necessary and vital medical services if they are seriously ill, but birth control is free….

What is more, Fluke asserted that if students have to go out and get their own birth control — because they chose to attend a Catholic institution — that hurts their grades. Therefore, Washington must force religious institutions to go against their deeply held beliefs and hand out birth control, if indirectly.

Washington has accomplished a great leap, from a plea for choice to a roar of entitlement.

No doubt, this approach works well with intolerant liberals who want to impose their views on others. But it is enough to cause some of us social moderates, who worry about the encroachment on religious and personal liberty, to go into the loving arms of social conservatives.

Read it all.

Dolan blasts White House contraception plan as ‘freedom of religion battle’

From the New York Post:

Cardinal Timothy Dolan ramped up the battle with the White House today, blasting the government for a controversial new regulation that would require providing free contraceptive services to workers of religious institutions.

“Don’t impose your teaching upon us and make us do as a church what we find unconscionable to do!” the freshly minted prince of the church told a roaring crowd of 1,000 at Holy Trinity Diocesan HS in Hicksville.

In a blistering attack interlaced with humor, Dolan never mentioned President Obama by name — only his policies….

He told the crowd of church leaders that the battle over the US Health and Human Services regulation is bigger than contraception.

“It is a freedom of religion battle,” Dolan said. “We are talking about an unwarranted, unprecedented radical intrusion into the interior life of integrity of a church’s ability to teach, serve and sanctify in its own.”…

“We live in an era that seems to discover new rights every day and then expects government and culture and society to pay for it. The church emphasizes responsibility more than rights.”

Read it all.

Obama risks $100 billion if Catholic hospitals close

From Ed Morrissey writing for the Fiscal Times:

Perhaps Barack Obama assumed that religious leaders would simply offer a token protest to his new mandate for religious organizations to provide free birth control, even when contraception, abortifacients, and sterilization violate the core doctrines of their faith. The president might have had reason to expect that Catholic bishops wouldn’t put up much of a fight, considering their support for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), commonly known as ObamaCare, from which Health and Human Services derives the authority to dictate their coverage requirements to employers….

The strongest statement of opposition came this week from President Obama’s home town of Chicago. Francis Cardinal George sent a message to parishioners in the archdiocese that the Catholic Church would shut down its various institutions in the community before violating the core doctrine of Humanae Vitae by providing contraception, sterilization, and abortifacients to its employees, free or otherwise. In a lengthy missive, George remarked that Catholic bishops are fighting for a separation of church and state, and that the mandate represents an unprecedented arrogance in Obama’s attempt to have government define the boundaries between faith and works….

If the Obama administration insisted on enforcing its mandate on Catholic organizations, George concluded, then “two Lents from now” their listing of Catholic hospitals and health-care institutions would be empty.

What would that mean to the U.S., and to Obama’s health care reform mandate? Put simply, it would create a disaster for the delivery of health care in the country, and rapidly escalate the public costs of health care….

The Catholic Church has perhaps the most extensive private health-care delivery system in the nation. It operates 12.6 percent of hospitals in the U.S., according to the Catholic Health Association of the U.S., accounting for 15.6 percent of all admissions and 14.5 percent of all hospital expenses, a total for Catholic hospitals in 2010 of $98.6 billion. Whom do these hospitals serve? Catholic hospitals handle more than their share of Medicare (16.6 percent) and Medicaid (13.65) discharges, meaning that more than one in six seniors and disabled patients get attention from these hospitals, and more than one in every eight low-income patients as well. Almost a third (32 percent) of these hospitals are located in rural areas, where patients usually have few other options for care.

Compared to their competition, Catholic hospitals take a leading role in providing less-profitable services to patients. They lead the sector in breast cancer screenings, nutrition programs, trauma, geriatric services, and social work. In most of these areas, other non-profits come close, but hospitals run by state and local governments fall significantly off the pace. Where patients have trouble paying for care, Catholic hospitals cover more of the costs….

Read it all.

Cardinal Dolan gives an update

From Timothy Cardinal Dolan:

…This has not been a fight of our choosing.  We’d rather not be in it.  We’d prefer to concentrate on the noble tasks of healing the sick, teaching our youth, and helping the poor, all now in jeopardy due to this bureaucratic intrusion into the internal life of the church.  And we were doing all of those noble works rather well, I dare say, without these radical new mandates from the government.  The Catholic Church in America has a long tradition of partnership with government and the wider community in the service of the sick, our children, our elders, and the poor at home and abroad.  We’d sure rather be partnering than punching.

Nor is this a “Catholic” fight alone.  As a nurse from Harrison emailed me, “Cardinal, I’m not so much mad about all this as a Catholic, but as an American.”  It was a Baptist minister, Governor Mike Huckabee, who observed, “In this matter, we’re all Catholics.”

And it is not just about sterilization, abortifacients, and chemical contraception.  Pure and simple, it’s about religious freedom, the sacred right, protected by our constitution, of any Church to define its own teaching and ministry.

When the President announced on January 20th that the choking mandates from HHS would remain — a shock to me, since he had personally assured me that he would do nothing to impede the good work of the Church in health care, education, and charity, and that he considered the protection of conscience a sacred duty — not only you, but men and women of every faith, or none at all, rallied in protest.  The worry that we bishops had expressed — that such government control was contrary to our deepest political values — was eloquently articulated by constitutional scholars and leaders of every creed.  Even newspaper editorials supported us!

On February 10th, the President announced that the insurance providers would have to pay the bill, not the Church’s schools, hospitals, clinics, or vast network of charitable outreach.  He considered this “concession” adequate.

Did this help?  We bishops wondered if it would, and announced at first that, while withholding final judgment, we would certainly give it close scrutiny.

Well, we have — and we’re still as worried as ever.  For one, there was not even a nod to the deeper concerns about trespassing upon religious freedom, or of modifying the HHS’ attempt to define the how and who of our ministry through the suffocating mandates.

Two, since a big part of our ministries are “self-insured,” how is this going to help us?  We’ll still have to pay!  And what about individual believers being coerced to pay?

Three, there was still no resolution about the handcuffs placed upon renowned Catholic charitable agencies, both national and international, and their exclusion from contracts just because they will not refer victims of human trafficking, immigrants and refugees, and the hungry of the world, for abortions, sterilization, or contraception.

So, we have given it careful study.  Our conclusion: we’re still very worried.  There seem far more questions than answers, more confusion than clarity.

Now what to do?…

The President invited us to “work out the wrinkles,” and we have been taking him seriously.  Unfortunately, this seems to be going nowhere: the White House Press Secretary, for instance, informed the nation that the mandates are a fait accompli (and, embarrassingly for him, commented that we bishops have always opposed Health Care anyway, a charge that is simply scurrilous and insulting). The White House already notified Congress that the dreaded mandates are now published in the Federal Registry “without change.” The Secretary of HHS is widely quoted as saying, “Religious insurance companies don’t really design the plans they sell based on their own religious tenets,” which doesn’t bode well for a truly acceptable “accommodation.”  And a recent meeting between staff of the bishops’ conference and the White House staff ended with the President’s people informing us that the broader concerns of religious freedom — that is, revisiting the straight-jacketing mandates, or broadening the maligned exemption—are all off the table.  Instead, they advised the bishops’ conference that we should listen to the “enlightened” voices of accommodation, such as the recent hardly-surprising but terribly unfortunate editorial in America.  The White House seems to think we bishops are hopelessly out of touch with our people, and with those whom the White House now has nominated as official Catholic teachers.

So, I don’t know if we’ll get anywhere with the executive branch.

Congress offers more hope, with thoughtful elected officials proposing promising legislation to protect what should be so obvious: religious freedom.  As is clear from the current debate in the senate, our opponents are marketing this as a “woman’s health issue.”  Of course, it cannot be reduced to that.  It’s about religious freedom.  (By the way, the Church hardly needs to be lectured about health care for women.  Thanks mostly to our Sisters, the Church is the largest private provider of health care for women and their babies in the country.  Here in New York State, Fidelis, the Medicare/Medicaid insurance provider, owned by the Church, consistently receives top ratings for its quality of service to women and children.)

And the courts offer the most light.  In the recent Hosanna-Tabor ruling, the Supreme Court unanimously and enthusiastically defended the right of a Church to define its own ministry and services, a dramatic rebuff to the administration, but one apparently unheeded by the White House.  Thus, our bishops’ conference and many individual religious entities are working with some top-notch law firms who have told us they feel so strongly about this that they will represent us pro-bono.

So, we have to be realistic and prepare for tough times….

Read it all.

AUL: The con

Watch it all.

Freedom of religion abolished in Scotland

From CNA, shades of what’s coming to the United States under Obamacare?

Two Catholic midwives from Scotland have lost their legal battle to avoid taking part in abortion procedures on grounds of “conscientious objection.”

“I view this judgment with deep concern,” said Archbishop Mario Conti of Glasgow. “I wish to put on record my admiration for the courage of the midwives who have, at very great cost to themselves, fought to uphold the right to follow one’s conscience.”

Mary Doogan and Connie Wood were previously told by the state-run National Health Service in Glasgow that they had to supervise and support fellow midwives who perform abortions. As senior staff, they were also expected to be on standby to help in abortion procedures in certain medical situations.

On Feb. 29 Scotland’s highest civil court ruled that the women’s religious liberties were not being infringed because “the nature of their duties does not in fact require them to provide treatment to terminate pregnancies directly.”

No, they don’t have to terminate them directly, just be party to an act they consider inherently evil.

Doogan said they were “very disappointed” by the verdict and that it would have “very grave consequences for anyone of conscience who wishes to choose midwifery as a career.”

The midwives had maintained that their right to opt-out of providing abortions for reasons of conscience was upheld by Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Section 4(1) of the U.K.’s 1967 Abortion Act.

The two midwives previously told the Court of Session that “they hold a religious belief that all human life is sacred from the moment of conception and that termination of pregnancy is a grave offense against human life.”

But the National Health Service in Glasgow rejected their appeals, claiming that their rights are being respected because the midwives are not compelled to administer abortion-inducing drugs. The Court of Session today agreed with that argument.

The court ruled today that the 1967 Abortion Act allowed only qualified conscientious objection, and that the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights in relation to freedom of conscience and religion were not absolute….

“Qualified conscientious objection” means no allowance for any conscientious objection.

Both Doogan and Wood have worked for over 20 years at Glasgow’s Southern General Hospital and have always made clear their conscientious objection to abortion.

In 2007, however, the National Health Service in Glasgow decided to send more women undergoing late-term abortions to labor wards, instead of admitting them to gynecological departments. This change in policy led to the current dispute between the health service and the midwives….

Wow, so the National Health Service (NHS) sends women “undergoing late-term abortions” to labor wards?? So their babies can be “terminated” right next to a baby being born? How truly, truly bizarre. . .

Read it all. H/t to MCJ

Anglican Curmudgeon: Does Obamacare negate its own insurance?

From A. S. Haley (lawyer) at the Anglican Curmudgeon, a follow-up to my link to HotAir yesterday:

A contract entered into under duress, such as threat of sanctions, retaliation or punishment, on the other hand, is unenforceable, and may be set aside in court. That is because to make a valid contract, the law requires a “meeting of the minds” — two individuals must come freely together, and freely decide and agree on the same terms for their contract. If one of those minds is under duress, it cannot meet the other in the free and voluntary sense which the law requires to make a contract.

The so-called “individual mandate” in Obamacare requires that everyone purchase a healthcare insurance policy, under threat of fines and, eventually, imprisonment for refusal to pay the fine. A more classic case of forcing people into a contract under duress could scarcely be imagined….

What I find most interesting is that I have been following a number of legal blogs which carry arguments pro and con regarding the healthcare mandate (especially The Volokh Conspiracy), but to date I have never seen any other law professor raise this fundamental argument. That they have not done so, and that many of them can entertain even the notion that the mandate is constitutional, speaks volumes about the institutional mentality that has crept over our law schools….

Read it all. Of course, the Obama Administration didn’t much care when they negated contract law for the bondholders of General Motors and Chrysler, so I don’t know if they’ll really care about this. I hope this time the judiciary doesn’t cave so easily to browbeating by the executive.