How about a “Do Over” for the HHS Mandate?


Francis J. Manion

April 9, 2013

2 min read




Judging by critics’ reactions to the Obama Administration’s latest tweaking of the HHS Mandate, you have to wonder whether the bureaucrats who created the mandate wish they could go back and start over again. To begin with, the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) issued on February 1, 2013, makes no attempt to address the objections of for-profit business owners. So far, for-profit employers, relying on the Ted Kennedy-sponsored 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, have been successful in obtaining injunctions against the mandate in 17 of 22 court challenges. As for nonprofit, religiously affiliated employers, the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ conference, which has been urging the administration to abandon this misguided effort at religious coercion while reiterating its commitment to universal health care for all, has again weighed in with pointed criticisms of this latest version of the mandate. The more than 53 pending legal challenges (a number that grows daily) are not going away anytime soon.

Watching this regulatory spectacle—of proposal, objections, counter-proposal, lawsuits—is all the more frustrating when you consider that the mandate itself has never really been more than a solution in search of a problem. According to figures from the Guttmacher Institute for 2010, 90 percent of U.S. employer-based health plans already cover a “full range of prescription contraceptives,” an amount that has tripled in a decade. Add to that the fact that the U.S. currently spends $2.37 billion a year domestically for “family planning,” and that, according to HHS’s Kathleen Sebelius, “contraceptive services are available at sites such as community health centers, public clinics, and hospitals with income-based support,” and you have to ask: what exactly was the problem the mandate was supposed to address?

More to the point, given the apparently miniscule gap that exists between the current situation and the government’s goal of universally available, free birth control, is there really no better way to bridge that gap, than by coercing the tiny number of employers with religious objections?. . . 

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