Republicans Want to Put Your Boss Between You and Your Doctor
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Last Friday, President Obama announced a revision to his proposal to guarantee near-universal access to no-cost contraception. It removed religiously-affiliated organizations who object to covering contraception from the equation and instead requires insurers to provide the birth control at no additional cost directly to employees. This proposal respects both religious liberty and women's right to essential health care services, including birth control.
This revised proposal immediately attracted the support of key organizations who would actually be impacted and had opposed the initial plan, including:
- The Catholic Health Association
- University of Notre Dame
- The Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities
- Catholic Charities USA
Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress are doubling down on their phony charges of a "war on religious liberty" and are now targeting essential health care benefits far beyond birth control. As soon as today, the Senate could vote on a radical measure sponsored by Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., that would allow any employer to deny coverage for any preventative or essential health care service, not just birth control. ThinkProgress Health Editor Igor Volsky explains:
Under the measure, an insurer or an employer would be able to claim a moral or religious objection to covering HIV/AIDS screenings, Type 2 Diabetes treatments, cancer tests or anything else they deem inappropriate or the result of an "unhealthy" or "immoral" lifestyle. Similarly, a health plan could refuse to cover mental health care on the grounds that the plan believes that psychiatric problems should be treated with prayer.
The extreme Republican plan would also allow any individual to object to such coverage in their own health plan, which would create a gigantic mess imperiling coverage for others:
Individuals too can opt out of coverage if it is contrary to their religious or moral beliefs, radically undermining "the basic principle of insurance, which involves pooling the risks for all possible medical needs of all enrollees." As the National Women's Law Center explains, Blunt's language is vague enough that "insurers may be able to sell plans that do not cover services required by the new health care law to an entire market because one individual objects, so all consumers in a market lose their right to coverage of the full range of critical health services." As a result, a man "purchasing an insurance plan offered to women and men could object to maternity coverage, so the plan would not have to cover it, even though such coverage is required as part of the essential health benefits."
So far, only two Republican Senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, both of whom previously sponsored a bill to require contraception coverage, have come out in support of the president's plan. For his part, Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., took a hard turn to the right and announced he supported this radical proposal -- even though he himself previously voted for a contraception mandate when he was a state legislator in Massachusetts, even though it had much narrower religious exemptions than the president's current proposal. So far, just one Democrat, Sen. Ben Nelson, Neb., has announced his support for the GOP plan.
IN ONE SENTENCE:Whether it's birth control or other essential health services used by both men and women, Republicans are pushing a radical proposal that puts your boss between you and your doctor -- and in your bedroom.