Email letters, June 12, 2012

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Juxtaposition of John Andrews’ on-line letter – “Mandate to provide contraceptive drugs violates religious organizations’ First Amendment rights” (June 12, 2012)—and the AP’s story – “Largest insurer in U.S. plans to keep health law elements, however court rules” (June 12, 2012) – provides ample evidence as to why the Roman Catholic Church should forfeit its tax exempt status in the U.S.
  Apparently, the same Catholic bishops who countenanced widespread child abuse and shielded pedophile priests from prosecution – and are now demeaning the wisdom of thoughtful and selfless Catholic nuns – are determined to impose second class health care on female Catholics (98% of whom have used contraception at some time in their lives) and on non-Catholic female employees (all of whom are capable of making their own life decisions and following their own consciences, Catholic dogma notwithstanding).
  Contrary to Andrews’ assertion, the Affordable Health Care Act (“AHCA”) does not force religious institutions to directly provide contraception to its employees.  Rather – if the institution provides health insurance thereto – such insurance plans must include free “preventive care”, which appropriately encompasses contraception (even if including abortifacient drugs and sterilizations – both of which are entirely legal for adult females).
  Nor does the AHCA force religious institutions to “pay for” such preventive care – because, actuarially, insurance plans with contraception coverage should cost about $400 more per year than those without (due to the increased probability of pre-natal and maternity costs).  Thus, the bishops are welcome to pay more for less.
  Nor does the AHCA violate “religious organizations’ First Amendement rights (i.e., the Establishment Clause).  It is long settled – even by Justice Scalia—that the government can enact and enforce “laws of general applicability” even when such laws “abridge” a particular religious belief.  To do otherwise would allow disparate beliefs to trump the Constitution itself and invite anarchy.  Thus,while the bishops are entitled to use the courts to “unsettle” the law, that is a political – not a religious – undertaking. 
  While religion depends on sincere beliefs, public policy should be based on facts and reason.  Thus, the UnitedHealth Group publicly recognizes that much of the AHCA – particularly including “preventive care”—makes good business sense, requires only a 3% premium increase, and is thus both actuarially and medically sound.  Only disregarding “preexisting conditions” remains actuarilally unsound, because – without a “mandate” and all insurers doing so – “free-riders” would migrate to any insurer willing to take that risk and only at the last minute, when they knew they were sick and needed coverage. 
                Bill Hugenberg



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