At the recent National Prayer Breakfast, Dr. Ben Carson, the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital gave his solution to our nation’s health care crisis. He said, “When a person is born, give him a birth certificate, an electronic medical record, and a health savings account to which money can be contributed -- pretax -- from the time you're born 'til the time you die…And also, for the people who were indigent who don't have any money we can make contributions to their HSA each month…Now they have some control over their own health care.”
Even though 13.5 million Americans are covered by health savings accounts (HSAs), a lot of people have not heard of them. HSAs enable individuals covered by high deductible health plans to save money in tax preferred savings accounts.
When I first heard of HSAs, admittedly I yawned. It wasn’t until I was an HSA holder that I understood the potential for this reform, often called “consumer driven health care” to bring down health care costs while giving patients more control over their health care.
I first took a high deductible plan while with an employer 10 years ago. My employer paid the premium and filled my HSA with $1,000 to cover the deductible. Eight years ago I became self-employed and self-insured and the high deductible plan ($3000) paired with an HSA was the only affordable option. Bear in mind that I’m not one of those of lucky folks that HSA critics allege are the sole users of HSAs; despite my dedication to healthy food and exercise, I’ve had three surgeries in five years and numerous procedures.
Because I pay the first $3,000 of my health care, I pay attention to costs. When I was covered under typical insurance arrangements, I didn’t care about the true cost of services or medication because I paid a small co-pay. I had no skin in the game, or at least I didn’t think I did. Under the HSA model, I have an incentive to find cost savings.
For example, I get tested every two years for glaucoma, the imperceptible destroyer of sight that runs in my family. To save money, I called three eye doctors, compared prices and chose the least expensive. Last year, I went on a new medication for a chronic condition. When the pharmacist told me the price, I researched the drug online, found a generic version, and asked the doctor to call in the new prescription. The incentive to pay less plus the information at my fingertips on the World Wide Web, allowed me to access a cheaper option.
In both cases, my smart shopping had the effect of keeping my health care costs lower. When many people act as smart shoppers, costs in general go down. That’s how the free market works. Conversely when people are willing to pay more, prices go up. Health care costs will start to go down only when more Americans become health care consumers rather can just health care users.
HSA’s aren’t just about lowering costs, of course; they’re also about returning control to patients. Under this model, I don’t have to get permission to see a specialist. I don’t wait in line. Because I am responsible for costs, I am religious about preventative care from glaucoma tests to mammograms to brushing my teeth twice a day. I follow my doctor’s orders to the T. I don’t mess around because I spend less when I take care of myself. My incentive to care for my body and care for my pocket book are aligned.
Interestingly my experience with HSAs is the norm among HSA users. A McKinsey study found that patients like me are twice as likely as patients in conventional plans to inquire about cost. They are three times as likely to pick a less expensive treatment option. Patients with chronic health issues are more like to follow their doctor’s orders with care.
The research and my personal experience demonstrate the tremendous potential of HSAs. Compare this to socialized health care models where patients routinely wait for procedures (the average Canadian waits 22.5 weeks for orthopedic surgery whereas I haven’t waited a day for my three procedures), or our own government-run system, in which too many patients find they cannot see their preferred provider because they’ve dropped Medicaid patients and emergency rooms are jammed with patients because they have no cost incentive to schedule a routine appointment.
Unfortunately, the Affordable Care Act takes us in the wrong direction, to greater government control instead of consumer driven health care. As it goes into effect next year, the ironically named law will force my premium and that of other self-insured people to double and I won’t be able to afford insurance any longer. I just hope the politicians were listening when Dr. Carson prescribed health care reform. Otherwise I don’t have a prayer.
('76 Contributor) How fragile, very fragile, is our democracy, our free market economic system, and our country. For the first time ever, I am concerned that America's best days are behind it.
The Supreme Court decision on Obamacare upheld the most far-reaching, burdensome, and intrusive legislation in the history of our country. It will destroy the genius of our founders who had a clear understanding of how to best utilize the natural human condition, our incentive-based behaviors, desire for freedom, and limited government with specific enumerated powers to achieve a better overall collective society.
There should be virtually no dispute that this genius created the most prosperous, generous, non-imperial world-protector, and overall successful society in the history of the world.
No one in Congress read the health care bill's 2,700 pages, with 1,700 references to new rules, and 21 tax increases drafted by 20-30-something year-old staffers with virtually no experience in the business world. The Supreme Court decision strikes down the mandate and the heavy coercion of states to expand Medicaid with our hard-earned tax dollars, which has now created an untenable and ugly piece of patchwork legislation.
.To get a sense of the destructive magnitude and controlling nature of this legislation, I suggest that you link to the Crawford Radio website and read the articles entitled PPACA Obamacare (3/28, 4/11, 5/17, 5/23, 6/6, 7/17, 7/18, and 8/8).
I would guess that, if you read one article, you will want to read more. It provides an insight into the liberal thinking about how to control the most important aspect of our lives, our personal health and well-being. It is a clear manifestation of the insidious accumulation of rules and regulations over the past 30-40 years, which have stolen our personal liberties and freedoms that our founders knew to be so important to each individual.
The legislation is job-destroying, innovation-stifling, and grants the government unlimited power to tax you for not buying something you don't want, creating a slippery-slope for future legislation that is beyond comprehension. The legislation was all about insurance and control of our lives, not about access to quality healthcare at the lowest cost. Virtually no effort was made to find ways to reduce costs through free market solutions, tort reform, mitigation of fraud and waste, or elimination of bureaucratic and reporting red-tape that are so burdensome to every doctor and hospital and ultimately the greatest healthcare system and medical innovator in the world.
The bottom-line is that, not only is the doctor/patient relationship destroyed, but the best and brightest will simply not suffer the control and negative income consequences of joining a profession that used to be the most highly-regarded in our society. However, we will likely get 16,000 new IRS agents, while documentation already exists about a pending doctor shortage.
I believe the most destructive force burdening our society is seldom talked about, and that is the endangerment of the spirit of American individualism. Unlike any other country, our system provided each individual the opportunity and the necessary human condition to work hard and to be productive. The result is that an individual then leads a purposeful life, with a sense of accomplishment and human dignity, and hope for the future, regardless of compensation. Those elements strengthen the human condition and then nurture the individual spirit, thereby improving our local communities, and ultimately the spirit and soul of our entire country.
I believe that this spirit and soul, as well as its very heart, are in peril. This, combined with our enormous deficit-spending and incomprehensibly large accumulating debt, provides a immoral assault and theft on future generations, who currently can't even vote. I am personally heart-sick to think that America, as we knew it, our parents knew it, and our grandparents knew it in such a positive way, will not be enjoyed by our children and grandchildren with the same blessings.
Elections matter. This upcoming election will unequivocally be the most important one in the history of our country. Never again should one individual, in this instance Barack Obama or Chief Justice Roberts, have ultimate power over our country's future. Additionally, having this great country's President publicly excoriate and diminish earned success and achievement, the rugged individualism and entrepreneurial spirit, which is the very essence of what has made this the most prosperous society in the history of the world, should be of grave concern to everyone.
Unfortunately, it illustrates that people either simply do not understand achievement, success, and creation of jobs and wealth, or it is just a threat to their vision, thereby justifying their continued attacks and tax increases on this group that is essential to the future of our country. This critically-important job creation, with the attendant reduction of government dependency, has multiple layers of benefits beyond government revenues.
Alexis DeTocqueville's extensive tour of America yielded great insight, including the memorable words often attributed to him: "America is great because America is good." With the diminishing individual spirit and soul of our country and continued secularization, America is ceasing to be as good and may cease to be great!
In contrast, consider this newly coined word whose definition would be amusing if weren't so painfully and frighteningly true: "Ineptocracy, (in-ep-toc'-ra-cy): A system of government where the least capable to lead are elected by the least capable of producing, and where the members of society least likely to sustain themselves or succeed, are rewarded with goods and services paid for by the confiscated wealth of a diminishing number of producers and job-creators."
I ask you to think about the above and recognize that participation and vigilance in the upcoming election are critical, not just the presidential election, but at all levels. I offer these thoughts to everyone, regardless of party-affiliation or ideology. This is simply about whether we are concerned about America, as we know it, and its existence in the future.
If you are compelled by what you have read, I suggest you forward the link to a handful of additional friends and acquaintances, children, grandchildren, etc. prior to the election. On the other hand, as in our great society, if you disagree or find fault with what I'm doing, I would appreciate hearing about it.
Want to read more? Here are some additional links you may want to view:
Buz Koelbel is a leading Denver businessman in the field of land development and commercial real estate, one of the founders of the Common Sense Policy Roundtable, and a member of the Centennial Institute Business Council.
For anyone who naively thought the Supreme Court would render a clean and tidy decision on ObamaCare, Chief Justice John Roberts' majority-of-one opinion should be instructive.
Rarely does the high court render an opinion that draws bright lines by simply applying the constitution as written. More often, the court's opinion is sufficiently muddled that a future court in a similar case can arrive at any decision it desires simply by selectively quoting only the passages that support its desired outcome and ignoring those that do not.
Roberts did exactly that in finding ObamaCare's insurance mandate unconstitutional under the constitution's Commerce Clause: "[T]o permit Congress to regulate individuals precisely because they are doing nothing would open a new and potentially vast domain to congressional authority."
But next Roberts ignored the court's precedent that distinguishes a "tax" from a "penalty," as the dissenting conservative justices noted: "We have never held that any action imposed for the violation of the law is an exercise of Congress' taxing power - even when the statute calls it a tax, much less when (as here) the statute repeatedly calls it a penalty."
Roberts therefore concluded - and was joined by the court's four activists - that the mandate that everyone purchase insurance could survive as a proper exercise of Congress' power to tax.
Does it matter whether the mandate falls within Congress' power to regulate commerce or the power to tax? In this case, it doesn't. Only when future courts choose to follow or ignore Roberts' attempt to corral Commerce Clause authority will we be able to evaluate the supposed silver lining of this obfuscatory cloud.
Several observers speculate that Roberts changed his position at the last minute after initially siding with the rest of the court's conservatives who were prepared to strike down ObamaCare lock, stock and barrel. These observers site inconsistencies in the text of the conservative dissent that make it appear that their dissenting opinion was originally written as the majority opinion.
If so, was Roberts motivated by a desire to prevent the court from appearing too political - a concern that never deters judicial activists - or was he intimidated by the specter of President Obama campaigning against the Supreme Court, as FDR did after the court invalidated much of his New Deal? It's doubtful we will ever know the answer.
In the wake of this mess, both the political and legal landscapes are intriguing.
Americans are left with the clear message not to expect the court to intervene to protect our freedoms - especially not after voters entrust the reins of power to Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and their big government fantasies. Today more than ever, no one will protect our freedom if we don't do it for ourselves.
If the voters want to reject ObamaCare, they must reject Obama come November. It's as simple as that.
ObamaCare and its costly, coercive insurance mandate won't be the foremost issue in the election, but it will play a more prominent role than if the court had thrown it out.
Moreover, the court's decision will now serve to galvanize those opposed to ObamaCare's budget-busting cost, both to Americans individually and to the nation as a whole.
If they win the White House and the Senate, Mitt Romney and the Republicans clearly have a mandate to repeal ObamaCare and replace it with something that respects personal, economic and religious freedom, that doesn't drive us further into debt, and that moves America away from the European model of socialized welfare and toward sustainability.
Meanwhile, Barack Obama can spend these next few months explaining why he signed the largest middle-class tax increase of alltime in order to pass a health insurance bill that has driven costs higher for American families, exploded our national debt, and is supported by barely one-third of the public.
Robert Alt, Director, a fellow at the Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at the Heritage Foundation spoke about “Obamacare, Congress and What Comes Next" at the 35th Annual Heritage Foundation Resource Bank held in Colorado Springs on April 27. Mr. Alt remarked on the constitutionality of ObamaCare's health insurance mandate and how even after 28 states have filed lawsuits, prominent legal commentators were saying there is no legal issue of concern when it comes to Obamacare, all while he and many others have known the bridge has been out for a while. Alt suggested that there are several clues which lead us to believe the justices will be striking down the entire law, and at minimum, the individual mandate. One is that Justice Alito asked about the fact that on day one, the government’s lawyer, Verrilli, came in to argue that Obamacare is absolutely not a tax, but the very next day he was planning on coming in and arguing that Obamacare is in fact a tax. The justice asked specifically, is this your plan? Surprisingly, Verrilli admitted as much. The second issue ss that the individual mandate is a violation of the commerce clause, forcing everyone to pay for insurance, or pay a fine. The justices have raised concerns about the breadth of power granted to Congress under the Commerce Clause should the mandate be ruled constitutional. Mr. Alt remarked that the court is actually worried about a much bigger issues. If they let Obamacare stand as it is, it sets a precedent for lower courts that it is acceptable to compel someone to engage in a specific form of commerce, in this case health insurance, when they have not chosen to do so on their own. The regulations included in the law require individuals to become active in a market that they would not otherwise be active in. So if they adopt the theory that the Federal government can force people into commerce, because healthcare is ‘special’as suggested by the administration, then what’s to stop lower courts from deeming that, let’s just say, for laughs, that a health club membership is not also special, after all, everyone should be exercising. The mandate doesn’t just regulate this new commerce, it compels it. Mr. Alt went on to remark how Justice Kennedy specifically has been known to support individual rights. Justice Kennedy, thought to be, by many, the crucial swing vote in determining constitutionality of the mandate, said the government faces a "very heavy burden of justification" to show how the Constitution would authorize the mandate. He also said the mandate "fundamentally changes the relationship between citizens and the government." Another encouraging sign, Alt brought up, albeit a bit less scientific or legal in nature, is that Justice Roberts has conducted a study of the relationship between the party who asks the most questions and wins at the Supreme Court. It has been the case that the party that asks more questions tend to lose, and in this particular case, the administration’s attorney, Verrilli, received almost twice as many questions as the other side. Yet another issue addressed by Alt was the question of the law's severability. Because Obamacare was passed by Congress without a severability clause, which would make certain that remaining parts of the law would stand if others parts of it were overturned, the court will have to decide how much of the law to strike down and how much to let stand should it rule that the mandate is unconstitutional. Alt suggested three different scenarios. Either, (1) The whole law will be struck down. This is the position being argued by the 26 states challenging the law. Or, (2) The insurance mandate goes down, as do the law's major insurance regulations, which says that the rules preventing insurers from engaging in discrimination against individuals with preexisting conditions cannot stand without a mandate Or (3) The mandate goes down, but the entire rest of the law stands. In the final scenario, we are guaranteed several more years of growing pains. Let’s hope the Justices will say that Congress overreached by a wide margin and strike the whole thing down. That might be a strong enough sting to Congress to keep them from meddling with health care for years.
Isn’t it ironic that the Smartest President Ever – according to one historian – can say something so ridiculous that most high school civics students would recognize his statements to be hogwash?
After the Supreme Court concluded its hearings on the Affordable Care Act (aka “ObamaCare”), President Obama said, during a White House news conference at which he clearly had to anticipate such questions, that it would be “unprecedented” and “extraordinary” for the Court to strike down his health care law as beyond the constitutional limits on the powers of Congress.
He concluded that sentence with another whopper: that ObamaCare “was passed by a strong majority of a democratically-elected Congress.”
Lastly, he claimed that it would be “a good example” of “judicial activism” if “an unelected group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law.”
Each of those statements is, to put it charitably, dubious.
Judicial review of laws passed by Congress is among the basic responsibilities of our Supreme Court, first established in an opinion written in 1803 by Chief Justice John Marshall.
The Supreme Court has a 209-year history of invalidating laws it judges to be beyond the powers which we the people” gave to government via the Constitution. Sometimes these decisions please conservatives; other times, they please liberals. No matter, a court ruling that all or parts of ObamaCare are unconstitutional would hardly be the first of its kind.
Obama surely knows better, even if he wasn’t really a “professor” of constitutional law, as Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign discovered.
So did the smartest, most articulate president simply misspeak? Did he think he could fool all of the people on this score? Or did he somehow think he could intimidate the Supreme Court?
Who did he think he was fooling by claiming ObamaCare “was passed by a strong majority”? It’s hard to fool the entire country about events that happened just two years ago amid one of the most highly watched debates in the last 50 years.
Congress passed ObamaCare 219 to 212 with every Republican plus 34 Democrats voting against it. Bare majority would be more accurate.
Finally, the President tried to steal a conservative critique of the courts – that of judicial activism – and redefine for his own purposes.
Obama, it seems, would have us believe that judicial activism occurs any time the Supreme Court strikes down an act of Congress. Or perhaps he wants us to think that conservatives hold this simplistic understanding.
Again, this is both intellectually lazy and factually dishonest.
The First Amendment says “Congress xx shall make no law xx respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press . . .” (emphasis added).
If Congress makes a law that prohibits certain forms of political speech just before an election, that’s a clear violation of the First Amendment, and the Court should rule it unconstitutional – as it did in another decision that Obama has criticized.
Judicial activism occurs when justices invalidate an act of Congress based upon their own opinions or policy preferences — not based on the plain text of the Constitution.
Activist judges try to cloak their activism in something that seems constitutional. Recall that Roe v. Wade struck down state laws restricting abortion not by quoting the constitution itself but by citing “penumbras” and “emanations” that were supposedly related to actual constitutional rights. Even many liberals now acknowledge that Roe was ill-conceived.
Such exaggerations and falsehoods merely add to the broken promises of ObamaCare. Rather than bring down premiums by $2,500 as promised, ObamaCare will increase premiums. We also know that even if you like your current health plan, there’s a good chance you won’t be able to keep it.
Perhaps the only thing more alarming than the excesses and overreach of ObamaCare is the long march of falsehoods and deliberate misrepresentations employed to justify it.
Mark Hillman served as Colorado Senate Majority Leader and State Treasurer. He is now a Centennial Institute Fellow. To read more or comment, go to www.MarkHillman.com.
('76 Editor) Is there any limit to the power of Congress? That's really the question we heard argued before the Supreme Court in last week's Obamacare debate, and which the nine justices are now sorting out as the nation waits. I know, I know, the case turns specifically on how far the Constitution's commerce clause or necessary and proper clause can be stretched to justify the individual mandate for everyone to buy health insurance (or burial insurance, or cell phones, or broccoli). But in the broadest sense, this is a struggle over whether the time-honored constitutional limitations on federal power over you and me as Americans can now be waved off with the arrogant impatience of Nancy Pelosi saying, "Are you kidding? Are you kidding?"I believe, and you probably do too, that the state exists for individuals. But many people, whether they admit it or not, seem to believe individuals exist for the state. The contest between these two views, in America and around the world, has intensified in the past hundred years. But it has been going on for centuries. In Britain 500 years ago, it played out in the attempt of King and Parliament to overrule the religious conscience of Englishmen and redefine the historic Christian church in accord with the marital whims and economic ambitions of Henry VIII. A giant of personal integrity and political statesmanship from this period is Sir Thomas More, who left his post as the king's chief minister to become the chief obstacle (not by anything he said, but merely by his silence) to consolidation of absolute spiritual as well as temporal power under the crown, ultimately paying with his life. A Man for All Seasons, the 1956 play by Robert Bolt, dramatizes More's rise and fall, with key passages in the dialogue following the documentary record verbatim. At the climax of his trial for treason, More is undone by perjured testimony quoting a belief which he was correctly suspected of holding but had not, contrary to the witness Richard Rich, ever voiced: "Parliament has not the competence" to make Henry the head of the church. That line rang in my ears as Paul Clement pressed his case for constitutional limited government at the Supreme Court. "Congress can't do it," would be the equivalent in today's American vernacular. Under the Framers' explicit intent, few are the things Congress can forbid us as free citizens, and fewer still the things it can compel. Buying something against our will is not one of them. Just because we consent for you to govern us, we say in effect to the legislative and executive and judicial branches through our founding charter, does not mean you own us. Each of us owns ourselves, and you work for us, not we for you. Is that understood? We mean to see that it is!This is not Tudor England, of course. No one's neck is on the block, no matter what the outcome of this PPACA case; but in a very real sense the stakes involve not only freedom of commerce but freedom of conscience. A year ago that might have sounded far-fetched. Not now, not after the HHS mandate for abortion drugs has revealed Obama's naked assertion of preeminence for the things of Caesar over the things of God. To the question of how far the authorities can invade individual liberty and personal responsibility, this president has answered: All the way. To which, if we don't want to be placed under absolute submission, our rejoinder must be in the spirit of Thomas More: "No, never. Parliament has not the competence. Congress can't do it. Not while we have breath."
(Centennial Fellow) The federal government wants power, far more power than the Constitution grants, because, after all, officials don't trust mere citizens to do the right things in their lives, and who better to instruct them than their betters in D.C.?
But there that darned Constitution sits, limiting federal sway in the interest of liberty, at least if one looks at what its words obviously mean. So what's to be done? Easy. The power seekers argue that the explicit meaning of the words doesn't count as much as "principles" that fit their progressive predispositions.
We're nearing calamity if positive change does not gallop to the rescue. I can think of few subjects that better illustrate our plight than the Supreme Court case on the health-care-reform law. If the court says it's OK for Washington to compel citizens to buy health insurance and states to spend themselves into oblivion on Medicaid, say goodbye to just about any federal restraint whatsoever.
We didn't get to this danger overnight. It started with progressives looking at an industrializing, urbanizing nation and failing to note that early abuses were disappearing faster than Congress could pass well-intentioned laws that sometimes had worsening results. When the Supreme Court balked during the New Deal at allowing Congress to disregard constitutional limits, President Franklin Roosevelt said to get with the program or he would pack the court with buddies of his. The justices went prone, all the better to kiss his feet.
A chief transgression that followed was playing games with the commerce clause. It allows Congress to "regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes," but Congress and the courts decided it could mean something much broader, even something as absurd as telling an Ohio farmer named Roscoe Filburn in 1942 that he couldn't grow wheat to feed his livestock.
The movement from rule of law to ridiculous rigmarole gave us a regulatory state stifling our economy and our freedoms. That's not to say all regulations are bad or constitutionally forbidden -- the issue is overreach that now includes an oppressive health-care act that will add significantly to the national debt and to the payments due on millions of insurance premiums.
It will thus endanger our economic future while already keeping businesses from hiring because of expensive obligations to come. It would almost certainly entail health-care rationing of a severity never before seen in this country.
The enactment of this law was based on misconceptions about inferior health care and terribly low longevity that turns out to be the highest in the world when one subtracts deaths due to homicide and accidents.
Yes, there are problems with the health system, just as there are answers. Martin Feldstein, a Harvard economist who once served in the Reagan administration, notes we could take care of the tens of millions who are uninsured by moving from employer-based insurance to individual catastrophic insurance at no more cost than we have today.
Maybe the worst element of Obamacare is the individual mandate telling people they have to buy insurance or pay a penalty. The commerce clause has been cited to justify it, which is silly because the mandate does not regulate commerce. It punishes people for a failure to engage in commerce.
Usually by 5-to-4 votes, the high court has been edging toward reason in recent years, and so there is hope. But if it fails to kill the whole law, we will have a monster on our hands and a Congress allowed to keep creating them forever as our liberties shrink to the unnoticeable. There could be other opportunities for rescue, but a court doing its duty would be a major step in the right direction and would actually foster sane reform of health care at the same time.
Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and editor of dailies in El Paso and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado and a Centennial Institute Fellow. This column is the second in his special series entitled "The Tipping Point Cometh."
Friday, 10 February 2012 09:03 by Admin
(Editor: Here is today's press release from the attorneys for Colorado Christian University in its suit against Obamacare's infringement of religious freedom.)
Washington, Feb. 10 - Facing a political firestorm, the administration today announced its intent to make partial changes to a controversial rule that would require religious institutions, in violation of their conscience, to pay for contraception, sterilization, and abortifacient drugs. But the changes still leave out hundreds, if not thousands of religious organizations, businesses, and individuals that would still be forced to violate their religious beliefs.
The rule is currently subject to three lawsuits filed by The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty—one on behalf of Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina, one on behalf of Colorado Christian University, and one on behalf of Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), a Catholic media organization that self insures.
“This is a false ‘compromise’ designed to protect the President’s re-election chances, not to protect the right of conscience,” says Hannah Smith, Senior Legal Counsel for The Becket Fund. “Hundreds, if not thousands, of religious institutions are still left out in the cold and will be forced to violate their religious convictions.”
According to a White House statement, some religious employers will no longer be required to provide insurance coverage for contraception, sterilization, and abortifacient drugs; coverage for those services will instead be provided for free directly by insurance companies. However, at least three problems remain.
** First, hundreds if not thousands of religious organizations self insure, meaning that they will still be forced to pay for these services in violation of their religious beliefs.
** Second, it is unclear which religious organizations are permitted to claim the new exemption, and whether it will extend to for-profit organizations, individuals, or non-denominational organizations.
** Third, money is fungible, and many religious organizations may still object to being forced to pay money to an insurance company which will turn around and provide contraception to its employees for free.
“It is especially telling that the details of this supposed ‘compromise’ will likely not be announced until after the election,” said Smith. “Religious freedom is not a political football to be kicked around in an election-year. Rather than providing full protection for the right of conscience, the administration has made a cynical political play that is the antithesis of ‘hope and change.’”
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty<http://www.becketfund.org/> is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. The Becket Fund has a 17-year history of defending religious liberty for people of all faiths. Its attorneys are recognized as experts in the field of church-state law.
For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact Emily Hardman, Communications Director, at email@example.com or call 202.349.7224.
As the Obama administration clumsily attempts damage control on the HHS mandate for religious institutions to pay for abortifacient drugs, abortion counseling, sterilization, and contraception, Americans must not lose sight of the full scope and menace of this First Amendment outrage.
Catholics are up in arms, and rightly so, at the insult of being "allowed" one year to accept Caesar's negation of their 2000-year commitment to the sanctity of life.
But evangelical Christians and other Protestants who regard abortion as murder, as well as Jews who jealously guard their religious heritage and human rights here in the land of the free (?), oppose the HHS mandate with equal intensity.
Colorado Christian University's lawsuit to overturn the mandate, filed on Dec. 21, shows the seriousness of that opposition.
Cardinal Donald Wuerl, evangelical elder statesman Chuck Colson, and Jewish scholar Meir Soloveichik, signing a joint manifesto of resistance in the Wall Street Journal today, exemplify the solidarity of America's three historic faith traditions in vehemently condemning President Obama's strike against religious freedom.
Budgeting is about setting priorities.In most states, K-12 education is the top priority and receives the lion’s share of funding. Yet across the country, states are grappling with a budget monster that pits education funding against federal health care mandates.In the last three years, total spending on K-12 education in Colorado has fallen by $389 million. Spending on health care, however, has increased by $763 million during that same period.The problem is that states no longer have the ability to set their own priorities. The federal-state Medicaid “partnership” increasingly resembles a shotgun wedding. A state that rejects the federal spending mandates also loses out on federal matching funds that pay for half of the $5 billion price tag of Colorado’s program.In the past five years, the number of Coloradans participating in Medicaid has swollen from 391,962 to 613,148. If that weren’t a big enough problem, ObamaCare (ironically named the “Affordable Care Act”) locks in current spending and requires states to expand eligibility to 133% of the federal poverty level. Worse still, government health care programs are notorious for exponentially exceeding estimated costs.Two years ago, the Colorado legislature, then controlled by Democrats, passed a $600 million hidden tax on hospital patients. Hospitals are prohibited from itemizing this “fee” on patients’ bills. The state planned to use this fee to leverage more federal matching funds and expand Medicaid eligibility to all adults whose income was at or below the federal poverty level.According a Denver Post story by Tim Hoover, state bureaucrats estimated that the new program would serve 49,200 people at a cost of $197 million per year. In fact, the number of eligible participants is closer to 143,000 and the cost of treating them $1.75 billion.For now, Colorado’s Department of Health Care Policy and Finance has controlled costs by limiting eligibility. However, ObamaCare mandates that all states extend coverage to this entire population by 2014. The federal government promises to pay for it by heaping even more debt on our children and grandchildren.Let’s be candid: Medicaid is government-sponsored charity — a noble but costly endeavor.In our family budgets, we may choose to cut back on extras to support worthwhile charities, but we don’t slash basics, like food and shelter for our children, to be even more generous to charitable causes.Given the choice, it’s inconceivable that legislators of either party would slash K-12 funding in order to expand Medicaid, but that’s exactly what’s happened. And the outlook grows even more grim under ObamaCare.So, why haven’t those who want to raise taxes for education or want the courts to force the legislature to spend more on education taken aim at the chief culprit that’s cutting into education funding? Either they don’t understand how Medicaid is eviscerating the state budget or perhaps they find it more expedient to lock arms with others who want higher taxes to pay for more spending on virtually everything.Two sensible options exist for restoring fiscal sanity to Medicaid:• Lobby Congress to turn Medicaid into a block grant program whereby states receive a lump sum from the federal government and are liberated to design their own program without federal mandates. Colorado will have allies because 49 other states are in a similar predicament.• Require Medicaid recipients to pay a small premium or co-pay in exchange for the health care they receive — which costs the state about $4,800 per patient per year.Some will object because Medicaid is a safety net program for the poor. Yet, households with an average income of $17,500 (just below 100% of poverty) spend an average of $879 on junk food and soda pop, $1,160 on eating out and $1,192 on entertainment.If Medicaid patients paid an average of $400 a year out of pocket, the state could add some $300 per student in K-12 funding.So which is more responsible – more cuts to K-12 education or requiring Medicaid customers to help pay for their health care costs by cutting back on a few extras?
Mark Hillman served as Colorado state treasurer and Senate majority leader. He is now the Republican National Committeeman and a Centennial Institute Fellow. To read more or comment, go to www.MarkHillman.com.