In response to the Obama administration’s requirement that all healthcare plans provide birth control, Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO), in another effort to pander the 1% of the female population who have never used birth control and the men who want them to be barefoot and pregnant, introduced an amendment to the transportation bill (that’s right, transportation bill) that would allow any employer to deny any coverage on any whim. From Think Progress:
(6) RESPECTING RIGHTS OF CONSCIENCE WITH REGARD TO SPECIFIC ITEMS OR SERVICES —
“(A) FOR HEALTH PLANS. — A health plan shall not be considered to have failed to provide the essential health benefits package described in subsection (a) (or preventive health services described in section 2713 of the Public Health Services Act), to fail to be a qualified health plan, or to fail to fulfill any other requirement under this title on the basis that it declines to provide coverage of specific items or services because —
“(i) providing coverage (or, in the case of a sponsor of a group health plan, paying for coverage) of such specific items or services is contrary to the religious beliefs or moral convictions of the sponsor, issuer, or other entity offering the plan; or
“(ii) such coverage (in the case of individual coverage) is contrary to the religious beliefs or moral convictions of the purchaser or beneficiary of the coverage.
Think Progress goes on to say:
Under the measure, an insurer or an employer would be able to claim a moral or religious objection to covering HIV/AIDS screenings, Type 2 Diabetes treatments, cancer tests or anything else they deem inappropriate or the result of an “unhealthy” or “immoral” lifestyle. Similarly, a health plan could refuse to cover mental health care on the grounds that the plan believes that psychiatric problems should be treated with prayer.
Medicine does not have a morals clause. Doctors don’t refuse to treat people because they deem them to lead immoral lives. But for one moment, let’s imagine that Blunt’s amendment to the transportation bill became law. People who work for Jehovah’s Witnesses could be denied blood transfusions. Scientologists are against most medications. Some are religiously opposed to vaccines. In reality, any number of medications, treatments and preventative measures could be not covered because an employer simply doesn’t agree with them.
Just one month ago, Blunt underwent a heart procedure. Thankfully, he has appeared to make a full recovery, but an argument could certainly made that his employer (in this case, the US taxpayers) are morally opposed to the procedure since heart disease can be the result of an immoral lifestyle of gluttony and sloth. A more realistic moral objection could be made on the basis that his procedure, a heart stent, is costly and ineffective. Of course, there’s always the chance that his heart problems are through no fault of his own, just as there’s a damn good chance that birth control pills are being used for many completely non-sexual uses. It’s bad enough that insurance companies are making medical judgments, against our doctors’ wishes. Do we really want our bosses having the ability to deny us treatment as well?
Blunt’s amendment died without debate, thanks to Harry Reid, but not without more grandstanding. From ABC News:
“They won’t allow those of us who are sworn to uphold the U.S. Constitution to even offer an amendment that says we believe in our 1st amendment right to religious freedom,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. “This is a day I was not inclined to think I would ever see. I’ve spent a lot of time in my life defending the 1st amendment, but I never thought I’d see a day when the elected representatives of the people of this country would be blocked by a majority party in Congress to even express their support for it regardless of the ultimate outcome.”
Don’t look for the issue to be over. In an effort to distract voters from the improving economy, more Republicans will be adding useless amendments like Blunt’s, to unrelated and necessary bills…wasting their time and our taxes.