This new Cato Institute video explains why it is in no state’s interest to create an ObamaCare Exchange.
Many thanks to Cato’s very talented Caleb O. Brown and Austin Bragg.
On Friday, President Obama announced an “accommodation” to those who object to his contraceptives mandate. Since then, I have been astonished at how many reporters have portrayed the president’s announcement as some sort of compromise, even though it would not reduce – not by one penny – the amount of money he would force Catholics and others with a religious objection to spend on contraception.
In fact, the only reporter who seemed to grasp this may also have been the first out of the box. The Washington Post’s Sarah Kliff:
“If a charity, hospital or another organization has an objection to the policy going forward, insurance companies will be required to reach out to directly offer contraceptive care free of charge,” one administration official explained…
Numerous studies have shown that covering contraceptives is revenue-neutral, as such preventive measures can lower the rate of pregnancies down the line…
“Contraceptives save a lot of money,” a senior administration official argued.
The catch here is that there’s a difference between “revenue neutral” and “free.” By one report’s measure, it costs about $21.40 to add birth control, IUDs and other contraceptives to an insurance plan. Those costs may be offset by a reduction in pregnancies. But unless drug manufacturers decide to start handing out free contraceptives, the money to buy them will have to come from somewhere.
Where will it come from, since neither employers nor employees will be paying for these contraceptives? That leaves the insurers, whose revenues come from the premiums that subscribers pay them. It’s difficult to see how insurance companies would avoid using premiums to cover the costs of contraceptives.
The Post’s subsequent coverage would have benefited from such scrutiny of the president’s spiel. If I missed such scrutiny in the Post or elsewhere, I hope someone will let me know.
President Obama is catching some well-earned blowback for his decision to force religious institutions “to pay for health insurance that covers sterilization, contraceptives and abortifacients.” You see, ObamaCare penalizes individuals (employers) who don’t purchase (offer) a certain minimum package of health insurance coverage. The Obama administration is demanding that coverage must include the aforementioned reproductive care services. The exception for religious institutions that object to such coverage is so narrow that, as one wag put it, not even Jesus would qualify. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius reassures us, “I believe this proposal strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services.” Ummm, Madam Secretary…the Constitution only mentions one of those things. The Catholic church is hopping mad. Even the reliably left-wing E.J. Dionne is angry, writing that the President “utterly botched” the issue “not once but twice” and “threw his progressive Catholic allies under the bus.”
As I wrote over and over as Congress debated ObamaCare, anger and division are inevitable consequences of this law. I recently debated the merits of ObamaCare’s individual mandate on the pages of the Wall Street Journal. Here’s a paragraph that got cut from my essay:
We can be certain…that the mandate will divide the nation. An individual mandate guarantees that the government—not you—will decide what medical services you will purchase, including contraceptives, fertility services that result in the destruction of human embryos, or elective abortions. The same apparatus that can force Americans to subsidize elective abortions can also be used to ban private abortion coverage once the other team wins. The rancor will only grow.
Or as I put it in 2009,
Either the government will force taxpayers to fund abortions, or the restrictions necessary to prevent taxpayer funding will reduce access to abortion coverage. There is no middle ground. Somebody has to lose. Welcome to government-run health care.
The same is true for contraception. The rancor will grow until we repeal this law.
ObamaCare highlights a choice that religious organizations – such as the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, where my grandfather served as counsel – have to make. Either they stop casting their lots with Caesar and join the fight to repeal government health care mandates and subsidies, or they forfeit any right to complain when Caesar turns on them. Matthew 26:52.
In an action with major implications for health reform in Michigan, the state House has voted to turn down—at least for now—nearly $10 million in federal funds to create a statewide health exchange by 2014 to sell more affordable, standardized health insurance to consumers and small businesses.
The Michigan House’s action is consistent with what everyone from the American Legislative Exchange Council to the Heritage Foundation to the Cato Institute has recommended that states do: refuse to create an Exchange and send the money back to Washington.
Our friend Jack McHugh of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy writes:
Under the Michigan Constitution, no money can be spent by the state—including federal grant money—unless the Legislature passes an appropriation bill authorizing the spending…
House Republicans have shown no eagerness [to create a state Obamacare exchange], and that reluctance extended to this appropriation bill. In the colorful words of House Appropriations Chair Chuck Moss, R-Birmingham, to MIRS News, “They’d rather be caught sacrificing to Satan than voting for Obamacare, so that’s the way it is.”
Jonathan Adler and I explain in this Wall Street Journal oped how Michigan officials can protect Michigan employers (including the state government itself) from penalties under Obamacare’s employer mandate—and even help bring down the entire law—by refusing to create an Exchange.
In June, I testified in Richmond before Virginia’s Joint Commission on Health Care that Virginia should refuse to create one of ObamaCare’s health insurance “exchanges”:
[ObamaCare’s] health insurance “Exchanges” are scheduled to become operational in 2014. These new government bureaucracies would enforce the law’s regulations that will drive up health insurance premiums, and would distribute hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars to private health insurance companies, thereby driving up the national debt…
Neither the Commonwealth nor the federal government has money to waste on new government agencies that might be repealed or overturned tomorrow…
At a minimum, Virginia should defer the question of creating an Exchange until the courts dispose of the constitutional challenges brought against this law. Legal scholars expect the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on this law in the summer of 2012…If the Court voids the law, Virginia will be glad she waited.
McDonnell said he does not want to create an exchange legislatively until after the court makes its decision on the mandate’s constitutionality. The court will hear arguments in the case in March and possibly rule in July, just after a federal deadline for states to seek grant money to set up exchanges.
“Any major expense prior to the court decision is irresponsible and a waste of money,” the governor said at a luncheon meeting with members of the Capitol press corps.
Unfortunately, McDonnell is still laboring under the misapprehension that creating her own Exchange will let Virginia retain a measure of control over her health insurance markets:
McDonnell said he hopes the Supreme Court will strike down the law’s individual mandate, rendering an exchange unnecessary, but he made clear he wants Virginia to operate the exchange if the law stands.
“If we have to do it, I clearly want to have a state-based exchange,” he said.
To read about why Virginia doesn’t “have to do it,” and why there is no defensible rationale whatsoever for an ObamaCare opponent such as McDonnell to create an Exchange, read my Missouri testimony.
To learn how McDonnell may end up saving ObamaCare from repeal by creating an Exchange, read this Wall Street Journal oped by Jonathan Adler and me.
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