This shell game was thoroughly debunked months ago when the administration first tried it. Under the administration’s proposal, a non-exempt religious employer choosing to offer insurance at all would know in advance that this coverage would automatically come with a rider covering everything the employer would like to avoid. That’s essentially no different from doing it directly in the employer plan. It’s not a solution.
Moreover, the proposed rule provides no clear path to allowing non-exempt employers that sponsor self-insured plans to get out from under the mandate’s requirements. The rule suggests the problem could be solved for these employers by conscripting the “third-party administrators” that typically assist in the administration of these plans into providing the mandate’s required insurance coverage instead of the employers. This non-solution suffers from the same problem as the one suggested for fully insured plans as well as the added problem that third-party administrators are in the business to process claims, not provide insurance. Many of them may not even be licensed in the states to provide insurance.
And the rule doesn’t even pretend to offer a way out for the conscientious business owner who provides insurance for his workers but does not want to comply with the mandate for religious reasons. The administration has absolutely no sympathy for such a person and apparently has no qualms forcing him to violate his conscience.
The proposed rule issued last week by the administration resolves nothing. The stakes in this fight remain just as high as they have been for the past year. The administration believes that the supposed public good of free contraception is so important that it justifies just about anything — including trampling on the rights the country was founded to secure.
It’s not surprising that Dionne finds the administration’s latest proposal to be a moderate compromise; after all, he thought that even last year’s proposal should satisfy the bishops. So he’s an unreliable barometer of what constitutes a fair resolution of this matter. Meanwhile, for those who are genuinely concerned with protecting religious liberty and not just striking any compromise to make the issue go away, there’s still no choice but to fight on.
— James C. Capretta is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.