The current flap over insurance coverage of birth control by insurers — specifically those who work as employees of the Catholic Church — has absolutely nothing to do with the religious freedom of Catholics. In fact, if anything, it is the Catholic Church that is attempting to violate the separation of church and state mandated by the First Amendment, not the government. They are attempting to carve out an exception for themselves in YOUR private insurance policy, and nothing more.
To explain what I mean, you have to understand the purpose of health insurance.
When you pay a health insurance premium, you’re not actually paying for your own health care. This is a concept that causes many right wingers’ heads to explode, but it is reality. Given the fact that many people pay insurance premiums for many years, and only use it to take the kids to the doctor for occasional check ups, many tend to view it as something of a savings account, to pay for what might happen in the future. Unfortunately, insurance companies tend not to view it that way.
In actuality, you pay your premiums, and those premiums go into a large pool, from which the insurance company pays the medical bills of others who need the money to pay for health care. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, better known as “Obamacare,” medical decisions are now left between you and your doctors. Hospitals and doctors issue an invoice for services rendered, and the insurance company writes a check, pulling money from the pool that includes your insurance premium.
Keep something in mind, though; YOU are paying your premium, not your employer – it’s part of your compensation package. He's no more paying for your insurance than he's paying your taxes. YOU are responsible for both. You and your family are the “insured” listed on the policy, and you and your doctor make the medical decisions that you deem best for your personal health.
The Catholic Church in the United States is asking for an exemption to the mandate that all private insurance companies cover birth control and contraception. In other words, they want to be given the power to mandate to their employees what decisions they and their doctors can and cannot make, based on the employer’s religious beliefs.
That is the issue, folks. Let’s deal with that.
Again, this is YOUR insurance policy. Your employer isn’t paying for it, YOU ARE. The only reason employers offer it as a benefit is because that is the tradition that’s grown over the years. In the end, it is YOUR compensation that pays for the insurance. The insurance exchange, when it comes online, will eliminate the need for employers to even negotiate on their employees’ behalf, so the Catholic Church’s objection will be solved at that point, anyway.
Since it’s YOUR insurance policy, and YOUR money is going into a pool that pays for other people’s health care needs, when it comes time for your health care to be paid for, wouldn’t it be nice to know that pretty much any legitimate medical decision you and your doctor make will be fully covered by your insurance, without regard to anyone else’s religious dictates?
If the Catholic Church, in its role as employer, were to succeed in claiming its “right” to not allow YOUR money to be used for contraception or other drugs that they object to, they would essentially be limiting the choices of their employees, even those who may not be Catholic, or who may not subscribe to that particular area of Roman Catholic doctrine. Ironically, the money Catholic Church employees paid in premiums could and would be used for such drugs and procedures FOR OTHER PEOPLE, just not their own. I would love for someone in the Roman Catholic hierarchy to explain how that comports with their religious doctrine.
And how far do we take this purported “religious freedom”? Should an employer who's a Jehovah’s Witness be allowed to refuse coverage of anything to do with blood transfusions to his or her employees? Should an employer who belongs to the Church of Scientology be able to deny coverage for psychiatry, or psychiatric drugs, because they don’t believe they work? If someone claims a religion that only believes in treating cancer with roots and berries be able to refuse coverage of other known cancer treatments to his or her employees?
I would also point out that the Catholic Church has employees all over the world, including a large number of countries with universal health care systems that cover birth control routinely, and they pay taxes or health insurance premiums to support them. Yet, it’s only a problem in the United States because we happen to have the First Amendment? Please.
It’s YOUR insurance policy, and YOU are paying for it, not your employer. What the Catholic Church is asking for, as an employer, is the power to deny you coverage it doesn’t approve of, based on its religious beliefs. If the government allows that to happen, that action will actually violate your right to religious freedom, because it will essentially result in the federal government allowing an employer’s religion to dictate to you what YOUR health insurance will cover. In what way is that not a violation of the First Amendment?
There’s a reason we separate church and state in this country, folks, and this is it.