Labor Week
Hobbycare
By Henry Meyerding
Jan 6, 2013 - 11:09:33 PM

UNITED STATESAfter having been denied an appeal by the U.S. Supreme Court, the Oklahoma-based chain of stores, Hobby Lobby, has made a public stand in defiance of the Affordable Care Act (called Obamacare by detractors). They have done this because this legislation requires employers to provide insurance to employees, and, in most states, insurance includes contraceptive care and this act requires contraception to be provided with no co-pay.


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Insurance companies know it is cheaper to provide contraception than to pay for a woman’s pregnancy, even under the most ideal conditions.

Hobby Lobby does not want to provide this coverage because they are owned by a conservative Christian family. In most states contraceptive care also embraces legal forms of what is known in the press as “emergency contraception” or the “morning-after” pill.  This is a pill that, if taken following intercourse, prevents the implantation of a possibly, fertilized egg in the woman’s uterus, so no pregnancy results. Opponents of this form of contraception refer to this as an “abortion pill.”

It does not really matter whether you support a woman’s right to choose legal medical treatments, such as contraception and abortion, or not.  The issue here is whether the company you work for gets to choose for you.

Let us say that you work for a Jehovah's Witness. Your employer’s religious tenets include the belief that blood transfusions are against God’s laws. Should they, as your employer, be able to tell your insurance company that your insurance does not need to cover blood transfusions or any procedure that requires a blood transfusion? What if you have a car accident and will die without major surgery? Should you have to sell your family home to pay for this surgery? Just because your employer’s health insurance does not cover any major surgeries that may require transfusions? Is it just your poor judgment because you went to work for someone who did not cover what was needed for you to survive? Jobs are not so easy to come by that most of us can afford to turn one down because we don’t like the health coverage.

What if you are a Christian Scientist? Are you then off the hook for everything, and you won’t need to provide any kind of health care for anyone who works for you? If exceptions are made for religion, any religion, then all religions must be allowed to make exceptions. An employer who does not wish to pay for health insurance will be able to check a box on a form that allows the option of not providing any insurance to employees, in spite of any laws to the contrary, because of religious beliefs, which the employer may or may not actually hold. Suddenly, it’s profitable to be a Christian Scientist, praise the Lord. How far is it from this scenario to one where individual employees will be able to force companies to stop providing certain kinds of coverage? Because it offends their religious beliefs.

Does it end with healthcare, and medicine? Should religions that believe in cutting off the hand of a thief be allowed to mandate this punishment for anyone caught stealing from them, or their adherents? Should our entire legal system be required to conform to the religious convictions of every Tom, Dick, and Harriet, regardless of what they might be?

If you are against abortion, then by all means convince the United States voters that they should change the law so that medically supervised abortions are illegal. Then, rich folks will go to Europe and Asia to get their medically supervised abortions and poor people will get back alley abortions by amateurs and many more women will die of preventable complications like septicemia. If that’s ok for you, go for it.

But don’t require some employers to provide health care coverage, while others are exempted. Don’t create a situation where essential medical care gets denied because doctors and hospitals can’t navigate a crazy quilt of coverage and exceptions that makes no sense because it is based on tens of thousands of employer’s personal beliefs and has nothing to do with medical necessity, or patient’s rights.

My medical care should be between me and my doctor. If the state oversees this to make sure that doctors provide only approved health services that are seen to benefit patient health, I can support that, within reason. What I cannot support is to add churches, employers, civic organizations, and political parties to the team that allows, or disallows, my medical treatment. It is bad enough that I have to navigate the hostile committees of insurance underwriters without adding even more cooks to the mix. Keep it simple. In the end, healthcare is about getting people healthy and keeping them that way.


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