The Catholic Response to the HHS Mandate Is NOT about Contraception

People get excited about sex and death. The first one people typically want and the second one people typically try to avoid. Health care covers both, and so does ethics.

So the recent US federal government Health and Human Services mandate that Catholic schools and hospitals (but not churches) must cover contraceptives – which are considered illicit by the Church – was bound to blow up. Sex and death, mixed with government and religion? Controversy? Whoa! No surprise here!

A first clarification. The use of hormones for medical purposes (other than contraception) is perfectly allowed from a Catholic perspective. Catholic hospitals and health insurance allow and Catholics can take all the hormones their doctors prescribe as long as it is for a medical reason that is primarily not contraceptive, like easing menstrual pain, etc. No problem there.

But as soon as the intent is contraceptive the Church doesn’t like it anymore. Debate that as you may.

Now I’m going to say something big. Contraception as the specific issue is irrelevant to what is going on here with the Catholic protestations against the HHS mandate. It could have been any of a number of issues that sparked this confrontation – forcing ROTC onto college campuses, forcing coverage of abortions (which the Stupak amendment tried to avoid), forcing schools to teach certain things, etc.

What is relevant here and what is at stake is that the government is determining what counts as a religious institution in order to limit the free-exercise clause of the First Amendment. What is at stake here is that government is deciding what a religious institution is, not the religious institution itself. Because, you know, the government knows better than the religion itself.

This is a complete violation of the separation of church and state. That divide has been created for a reason, and not only to protect the government from churches, but also to protect churches from the government. The HHS mandate breaches the wall.

Also, for a little perspective, remember that the Catholic Church – bishops included – kinda made health care reform possible in the first place, and now is getting a poke in the eye as thanks. Here’s a good article on it.

It will be interesting to see what happens.

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22 responses to “The Catholic Response to the HHS Mandate Is NOT about Contraception

  • suzymonford

    OMG I thought I was alone in standing for sep of church and state. well said! see my post on same topic: The Body Politic
    http://wp.me/p24WEN-X

  • Kelly Pellas

    I don’t follow your logic. The government isn’t (wasn’t) deciding anything about religious institutions other than if they are an employer they need to provide birth control coverage to their employees. It’s not about the government and it’s not about the church. The individual is the one who knows best about their own reproductive decisions. The government was trying to give them the opportunity to make that choice.

    By virtue of making exceptions for churches, the government is no longer keeping church and state separate. Furthermore, the government wasn’t mandating that Catholics start taking contraceptives. They weren’t mandating that contraceptives be given to anyone who didn’t want them. The only ones whose rights are being infringed upon are those who want the coverage. Since when is it the constitutional right of the Catholic church to impose its belief on others?

  • Brian Green

    Hi Kelly. Your comment begs this response, even though I don’t like it. Individuals choose where to work. If they really don’t like their insurance where they are they can work somewhere else. There is really no reason employers have any responsibility to provide any health coverage at all. It is an idiosyncrasy of American life that employers are expected to give health coverage. Properly, if there is a right to health coverage it ought to be directly from the government, not by forcing it through potentially reluctant channels like employers.

    Anyway, the US doesn’t even recognize that people have a right to food, but suddenly we have a right to non-essential hormones? This is complete fat-wallet-pandering, brought to you by the insurance industry (lower short-term costs by reducing reproduction) and the pharmaceutical industry (get everyone buying your drugs), with the goal of buying votes. Maybe we ought to have a right to food first, before we jump to contraception.

    • Matt

      Kelly, You seem to have a misguided sense of what the separation of church and state ought to do. The so called “wall” of separation cannot be impenetrable because the “government” must be the judge and jury in cases of conflicting religious claims. It would seem, from the original debate that religious liberty would have to be infringed regardless of how this plays out: either the employer or the employee will have their beliefs limited in this case. Given the “idiosyncratic” (to borrow Brian’s word) and (in my own words) “irrational” system that we currently have (i.e. employers provide health insurance), there is only one other way to work this whole issue out without infringing either party’s rights. That is to have the third party in the exchange (i.e. the insurance companies) provide the coverage out of their own self interest. This is exactly what the so called “Hawaii compromise” did.

      On the other hand, Brian, my friend, when you claim this is entirely drummed up by the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, I think you are underselling the desire on the part of non-Catholics to have their birth control covered by their medical insurance. That is not to say that this bill is not in their corporate interest, but that fact can be a point of constructive creativity (see again: Hawaii compromise), rather than a cynical conversation stopper, as you present it.

      Furthermore, I think you are dissembling when you shift the debate to food vs. birth control.

      Anyway, the US doesn’t even recognize that people have a right to food, but suddenly we have a right to non-essential hormones? … Maybe we ought to have a right to food first, before we jump to contraception.

      For one, it seems a bit naive in this economic climate to simply say “people can choose where they want to work.” And that sort of, ‘send the pagans to the wolves of a bad economy’ thinking seems quite un-Catholic-Social-Teaching-like, not to mention logically problematic for your claim that food is a more basic right than birth control. If food is the more basic right for government to protect, then it is also the more important concern that Catholic employers should have for their employees. Sending people to the unemployment lines because you don’t want to (let your insurance company) provide “artificial hormones” (at no cost to you), seems to reverse that value.

      • Kelly Pellas

        Hi Matt,

        Thank you for your condescending response.

        The government is NOT the judge and jury; the individual is. If taking contraceptive is against your beliefs, then don’t take them. The government does not care. And your RIGHT remains intact. However, if the government does not allow an employee the same access to birth control coverage solely based on the religious beliefs of the employer, they have breached separation of church and state. They have imposed the beliefs of the Catholic church on the employee. It’s not reasonable, fair or constitutional to single out an employee and force them to seek coverage elsewhere. Yet, by allowing the individual the RIGHT to choose, the government remains neutral.

        It’s not the RIGHT of the Catholic church to impose their beliefs on their employees. So, there is no draw here and therefore no need for an alternative solutions. A RIGHT should trump a belief every time.

        Again, as I said in my response to Brian, the employer is the middleman. It’s unfortunate, but it’s reality. The middleman should never have more or even an equal say regarding personal matters involving any individual.

    • Kelly Pellas

      Brian–I completely agree that an employer should not be the provider of insurance for their employees, nor should an employee be forced to get their insurance through their employer. Unfortunately, that’s the way it is. The employer is JUST the middle man. They should have no say in the individual’s medical decisions.

      Regarding your argument that “If they really don’t like their insurance where they are they can work somewhere else”– if the hospital decides that I shouldn’t be promoted because I’m a mother with children at home and the new position will require longer hours, I should just find another job? Or, if they find out I’m gay and they decide I should not work with patients.. I should just quit?

      • Matt

        Kelly,

        My apologies if I sounded condescending. That was by no means my intent, but I see how my late night words could have come across that way. I am sorry and I don’t mean to detract from this conversation with that type of attitude. My point was to recognize the legitimacy of both the individual employee’s claim AND the employer’s claim and then to show that there is a way through this impasse.

        You and Brian and both citing the first amendment rights as the basis for your claim, and I think you are both right, at least in a vacuum. You are saying that the individual has the right to make decisions for themselves regarding health care based on their beliefs and to not have that right infringed by their employer. Brian is saying the employer, who is paying for a service for their employees, also has a right to make business decisions based on their (religious) moral code.

        If the situation remained this way, where the employee and the employer both have morally legitimate claims to have their personal beliefs respected, then it would be the role of government to sort this out. In the cases of the working mom or gay employee that you cite, the impasse would be less easily dismissed, and the government would need to step in as judge. I agree with you that in the name of justice and fairness and subsidiarity, the rights of the employee should be respected over the rights of the employer (and, I believe, when the Catholic Church is not party to the case, they would agree with that statement), but that does not mean that the employer does not have rights. Brian’s claim is legitimate, which is why we must first seek an alternative response that can respect both party’s claims before we cut off the rights of the employer. I believe the Hawaii compromise does this in a quite ingenious way.

      • Kelly Pellas

        Matt,

        Thank you for the apology: it’s much appreciated.

        While I understand the Hawaii compromise seems like a win/win because the church doesn’t have to compromise their beliefs and the individual can still access contraceptive, the only one who is really compromising is the individual. They have to seek out a provider; they have to know that that’s even an option–which the Catholic church opposes. That isn’t a compromise, that’s siding with the Catholic church. This is why separation of church and state has not been maintained.

        I have a right to practise my religion without having to make alterations because someone else’s beliefs have been imposed on me. My religion says nothing about contraceptives, yet I have been singled out and forced to alter my healthcare plan because of this imposition. Your contention that separation of church and state has been maintained is one sided as it only takes into account the view of the church. By not allowing the decision to remain with the individual, the government has not been impartial. Again, I don’t know how there is any confusion with this. An individual (a human) is the only one who can choose to take contraceptives. That individual is the only one who has a RIGHT. If the Catholic church chooses to become an employer where they are not allowed to discriminate against their employees based on religion, they should have to respect that individuals religious beliefs for personal decisions.

        You and Brian are both correct; businesses have rights too. But, they should NEVER have the right to infringe upon the rights on the individual. There’s a fundamental error with the basis of your argument, “where the employee and the employer both have morally legitimate claims to have their personal beliefs respected”, Personal beliefs are just that, personal. They are no longer personal when they are being imposed on others. While the Catholic Church’s beliefs are legitimate and should be protected, their imposition of their beliefs on others is not legitimate. That is why employers can’t discriminate against women, single mothers, gays and lesbians, blacks, etc. That is why a business owner who is a Jehovah’s witness should never be allowed to force an employee to seek external medical coverage for blood transfusions. It’s slippery slope when you allow/force the government to intervene to determine whether an ENTITY’s claims against an individuals rights are legitimate. That is why the only acceptable approach is to ALWAYS protect the rights of individuals.

  • Matt

    “businesses have rights too. But, they should NEVER have the right to infringe upon the rights on the individual”

    Two thoughts here:

    (1) I think your “never” here takes your claim too far. Weighting rights takes an application of prudence, and it is not enough to simply create an arbitrary hierarchy in which individual rights trump corporate rights. I would agree that the individual, in general, should have the ultimate say, but this is far from absolute. For example, an individual may have the right to free speech, but if that individual’s speech is slanderous to the company they work for, the corporation has the right to fire that individual.

    And (2) I am not arguing individual rights vs. corporate rights anyway. I am arguing employer rights vs. employee rights. Would it change your view if you worked for a private (Catholic) doctor’s office instead of a faceless hospital with a saint’s name on it? At that level, you have two individuals at stake: the individual doctor, and his or her individual employee. Whose ‘individual’ rights rule then and more importantly, why?

    “They have to seek out a provider; they have to know that that’s even an option”

    This is not my understanding of the Hawaii compromise. I have it completely the opposite: the insurer is required to seek out the individual and inform them that they will cover birth control. And, regardless of any mandate that requires this, why wouldn’t the insurance companies do this? The whole reason the “compromise” is even possible is because it is in the financial interest of the insurance companies to prevent pregnancies, because pregnancies are costly.

    • Kelly Pellas

      With regard to your first point, there is no gray area. The individual has a right to free speech, not a right to slander. The business can certainly fire the employee or even hold them liable for damages without infringing upon the individual’s rights. Perhaps a better example would be a confidentiality agreement versus the individual’s right to free speech. As long as the confidentiality agreement is on the up and up, the business’ rights would trump the individual’s right to free speech. There are a few instances like this, but all instances would DIRECTLY relate to the protection/operation of the business. Whether an employee chooses to use birth control has NO bearing on the operations of the business, short of few extra dollars for the coverage. So, I will clarify my statement: Businesses have rights too. But, they should NEVER have the right to infringe upon the rights of the individual if the right in question has absolutely no nominal bearing on the operation of the business.

      For your second point, it doesn’t matter whether the employer is an entity or an individual. The employer’s rights as an individual are just as protected as the employee’s individual rights. If the employer does not believe birth control should be used, then he doesn’t have to use it. He even has the right to believe that others shouldn’t use birth control, but he doesn’t have the right to impose his views on someone else. Just as the pro-contraceptive individual has full right to believe everyone should use contraceptive, but he does not have the right to impose that view on someone else. Each individual’s rights are protected. There’s a barrier that should not be breached. Your rights are yours and mine are mine. If a personal decision I make has no bearing at all on you, other than you just don’t believe in it or like it, then you have no RIGHTS regarding that decision.

      Back to the employer actually being an employer. They absolutely have the right to protect the operation of their business. They have the right to establish their business hours. They have the right to require a dress code. They don’t have the right to fire me if I’m gay. They don’t have the right to not promote me because I’m a woman. They don’t have a right to say I’m not allowed to use birth control. The reason why they don’t have ANY of these rights is because my being gay, my being a woman, and my using birth control have absolutely no bearing on their business.

      That’s the crux of it all. An entity or individual should have no claim to a right that doesn’t affect them or their business, particularly if it infringes on the right of an individual (or even entity) for whom the right does directly impact. To put it in a different way, if the execution of a right directly impacts me but doesn’t impact you, then it should be my right, not yours. Even though you don’t like it or it goes against your beliefs, you should not be able to take that right away from me.

      Regarding the Hawaii Compromise, it’s my understanding that the church is required to notify its employees that birth control is not included through the employer and provide alternatives for accessing coverage. If what you’re saying is true–“he insurer is required to seek out the individual”, how would the insurer know an individual is seeking coverage? Is the employee supposed to notify the church?? Surely you see this is a very private decision and should not be something an individual should have to discuss with their employer!

      • Matt

        “how would the insurer know an individual is seeking coverage?”

        Insurers are required (and financially incentivized) to reach out to every insured person to offer the benefits of contraception free of charge. It doesn’t matter if they are seeking it or not – they will be notified and will have the right to claim these benefits as they see fit.

        “Businesses have rights too. But, they should NEVER have the right to infringe upon the rights of the individual if the right in question has absolutely no nominal bearing on the operation of the business.”

        (1) I think you a treading a pretty fine line here. There is nearly always some bearing on the operation of the business. The choice to use or not use contraceptives will affect whether or not the employee gets pregnant. A pregnant employee requires additional time off for maternity leave as well as prospective costs of pregnancy itself.

        and (2) even if what you are claiming is true, then the Hawaii compromise works. It does not restrict the individual from accessing the contraceptives but at the same time it protects the employer from having to pay for contraceptives it finds morally problematic.

        The employer’s rights as an individual are just as protected as the employee’s individual rights. If the employer does not believe birth control should be used, then he doesn’t have to use it. He even has the right to believe that others shouldn’t use birth control, but he doesn’t have the right to impose his views on someone else.

        Ok, but does the individual employer have the right to refuse to PAY for it? The difference at stake here is whether the right to contraception is a positive or a negative right. A negative right simply implies that I cannot interfere with your freedom to do X. A positive right places a burden on me to provide you with X. The first amendment rights in our society are negative rights – I can’t interfere with your right to speech, religion, press, etc. The sixth amendment and its “right to legal council” and the Miranda rights that derive from it, imply a positive right: “if you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you, etc. etc.” So is the right to contraception a positive or negative right?

        Before you answer that consider this: I think to understand this issue is to understand the Church’s view on chemical contraceptives in particular. (I understand this is contrary to Brian’s thesis in the original post above). Chemical contraceptives prevent pregnancy in three concurrent ways: (a) they keep the ovaries from ovulating, (b) they thicken the cervical mucus, making it harder for the sperm to pass, and (c) they thin the uterine lining so that a fertilized egg cannot implant. The Catholic Church as a problem will all three of these on various grounds, but it is (c) that makes this a particularly acute issue for the Church. When the pill is used for contraception, there exists the remote possibility that an ovary could still produce an egg and a sperm may still get there to fertilize it, but that fertilized egg has no place to implant. If this occurs and, as the Church believes, life begins at conception then this scenario is the moral equivalent of abortion, which in turn is the moral equivalent of infanticide.

        So in the interest of understanding all sides of the debate, in asking Catholic employers to pay for chemical contraceptives, the government is, in essence, requiring these Catholic employers to pay for someone else to commit what they consider infanticide. I doubt you would be arguing for the protection of an employees right to commit ritual infanticide as a matter of religious practice, and I am sure you wouldn’t require their employer to have to participate the ritual by paying for it.

        Now, you may find this analogy absurd, and you may want to dismiss it out of hand, but to be fair to the Catholic employers, we need to recognize that this is Catholic belief and so placing the burden of a positive right, requiring them to pay for such a practice is not just a business decision. It is a moral decision of mortal consequence for these employers. Placing a negative right on them, so they cannot infringe upon their employee’s ability to seek birth control, is a different story.

    • Kelly Pellas

      There’s no “reply” button for your latest response so I’m responding to this one. Hopefully you’ll see it.

      “Insurers are required (and financially incentivized) to reach out to every insured person to offer the benefits of contraception free of charge. It doesn’t matter if they are seeking it or not – they will be notified and will have the right to claim these benefits as they see fit.”

      If that’s the case then great. It’s laughable that an employer has to be involved at all then.

      “(1) I think you a treading a pretty fine line here. There is nearly always some bearing on the operation of the business. The choice to use or not use contraceptives will affect whether or not the employee gets pregnant. A pregnant employee requires additional time off for maternity leave as well as prospective costs of pregnancy itself.”

      That really isn’t an argument against my statement. “But, they should NEVER have the right to infringe upon the rights of the individual if the right in question has absolutely no nominal bearing on the operation of the business.” The example you gave falls outside of this statement. My taking birth control has no bearing on an employer’s business. If my individual rights do have an affect on a business, then my statement doesn’t apply soley by itself. In the example you gave, women were discriminated against due to pregnancy and the courts decided in their favor. In that case, the rights of the business were weighed against the rights of the individual and the individual’s rights were rightfully upheld.

      “(2) even if what you are claiming is true, then the Hawaii compromise works. It does not restrict the individual from accessing the contraceptives but at the same time it protects the employer from having to pay for contraceptives it finds morally problematic.”

      First of all, what I’m claiming above HAS to be true. Again, if it affects me 100% and doesn’t affect you at all, then it’s my right, not yours. How can that be contested?

      Second, if what you are saying is true, the employee is able to get contraceptive coverage and everything else remains exactly the same, except the Catholic church is not paying the bill, then I have no issues with this. Particularly because this is exactly how it should be anyway! The employer shouldn’t be involved at all. But, I have scoured the internet and it’s reported in many places that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is rejecting the Hawaii Compromise, because:

      “It adds an extra feature — the requirement that any religious organization that is exempt must still tell all enrollees how they may directly access contraceptive services and supplies in an expeditious manner.”

      Here’s a link to the article:

      http://www.religiondispatches.org/dispatches/sarahposner/5664/bishops_reject_proposed_compromise_with_obama_on_contraception_coverage/

      My apologies if I’m wrong.

      Regarding your next point.. since I don’t believe life begins at conception, I don’t believe the individual has participated in infanticide. I also believe the benefits of protecting against an unplanned pregnancy far outweigh the drawbacks of such a remote occurrence as you described. And clearly 98% of all Catholics feel the same way at some point in their lives.

      I’m also quite disappointed that you’re trying to manipulate me into feeling guilty because I disagree with the church. “I doubt you would be arguing for the protection of an employees right to commit ritual infanticide..” I also don’t understand, if “infanticide” should be avoided at such great cost, why are women allowed to take hormones for medical purposes if it could result in the same outcome. And furthermore, your comments beg the question, why does the church oppose condoms?

      With all that being said, I do feel for the Catholic church having to be a part of the whole ordeal, but that doesn’t mean their “rights” should be protected at the expense of the individual.

      And regarding your last point. First, “requiring them to pay for such a practice is not just a business decision…” It is NOT a business decision at all. But as I mentioned above, if there is no added burden to the individual and all things are equal, except the Catholic church is not paying the bill, then I wholeheartedly support the church in removing itself from the equation.

      “Placing a negative right on them, so they cannot infringe upon their employee’s ability to seek birth control, is a different story.” Therein lies the problem.

      • Matt

        I wasn’t trying to “manipulate your feelings.” Quite the contrary. I did not expect you to change your view on birth control. However, I was trying to open the conversation to allow for multiple perspectives on the issue. I wanted to show that from the Church’s perspective, this is a big deal, and while a Catholic employer has the make choice to use or not use contraceptives themselves, as an employer they also have to make a choice about what they PAY FOR.

        (More on this below, but before I get to that, I wanted to say that you commentary on using birth control for non-contraceptive means and on using condoms instead get us into the deep waters of the critique of the Catholic stance on contraception – an ocean I would prefer not to wade into here, for fear of losing the point of this conversation. I will just say this: that, as I said above, the abortaficient properties of chemical birth control are ONE of the reasons the church rejects it. They also reject all contraceptives on the basis that it separates intercourse from procreation, which would violate the Natural Law – but again, this is getting us off topic and is a black hole of a debate to do so with. Many within the church reject this thinking which is why many will allow for condom use and not pill use, but that is not official thinking. The question of hormonal use for non-contraceptive means gets into a whole question of the principle of double effect – but one again and finally, let’s not go there.)

        OK, so in the name of attempting to show (one last time) that the Church has a legitimate claim here, I’m going to play devil’s advocate, and take the side of the Church in this debate for the sake of argument. We have established that the right to birth control is a negative right, not a positive right. That is, the Church OUGHT NOT PREVENT YOU from getting and using contraceptives, but this right does not extend to the point where the Church needs to PROVIDE contraceptives. So, what is wrong with removing birth control from the “benefits” of health insurance? Your employer is not stopping you from using birth control. There are no random drug screenings for birth control. There are no consequences for using birth control – you will get promoted just as fast if you use birth control, you will get paid the same if you use birth control. The only thing your employer is refusing to do is PAY for that birth control – and since this is a negative right, not a positive right, they shouldn’t be required to.

        Perhaps the confusion lies in the fact that health care, as a mandated practice under Obamacare*, is a positive right. But , ultimately, this question boils down to what constitutes health care? What do we, as individuals, have a positive right to? And what is, instead, a negative right? I think that you would acknowledge that all benefits must have their limits. Some health insurance policies include vision and dental. Others do not. So are vision and dental covered under the positive right to health care; should they be required as part of any health care plan? Or are they extra services – services that may be protected under the negative rights (we need to have access to them) but not as a positive right (someone needs to provide them for us)? Even if you would want to include vision and dental as “basic” health care, would you extend that boundary to cosmetic plastic surgery? What about pet insurance? Should these items be included under the positive right to health insurance? The same question is being asked of contraception.

        *(I use the term Obamacare as shorthand, not as derogatory)

      • Matt

        Oh, and as far as the Hawaii compromise goes – I have heard biased sources tell it both ways, but the official white house statement (quoted here) said that “a woman’s insurance company ‘will be required to reach out directly and offer her contraceptive care free of charge. The religious institutions will not have to pay for it.’”, most news organizations have emphasized the “free of charge” part. However, also important for this discussion is the “insurance companies reach out directly” part.

      • Kelly Pellas

        “So, what is wrong with removing birth control from the “benefits” of health insurance?”

        I think you already know the answer to this. The right to birth control coverage is a positive right imposed on the insurance company. We already have the right to take birth control, this is a right to receive coverage from the insurance company. Because of the negative right, the employer can’t prevent us from getting the coverage. The vast majority of Americans get their medical coverage through their employer, so they are impeding that right to coverage by refusing to allow the individual to receive it. Removing the mandate altogether would quite obviously be a bigger violation against that negative right. We are not talking about the right to birth control, we are talking about the right to coverage.

        Why doesn’t the Catholic church just let that particular expense pass through to the employee? That’s really semantics, because as we all know.. the employee is already the one paying for their medical coverage. That’s because the Catholic church doesn’t want anyone using contraceptives regardless of who pays for it.

        As I said before, if all things are the same.. the Hawaii Compromise is something I would support. The church doesn’t have to pay for it and the employee doesn’t have to assume any additional burden.

        The issue of whether contraceptive coverage SHOULD be included is not part of this discussion either. With 98% of Catholics using birth control. I’d rather you an all inclusive statistic, but I don’t have the time to research. Suffice it to say, I would assume the statistic for the general population is very close to that figure as well… then, I’d say it’s pretty “basic”. There are more arguments for this, but it will just serve to open another can of worms.

  • Brian Green

    Hi Matt and Kelly, Thanks for keeping up the comments in my absence. There is a lot to think about that you have discussed so I think I am going to try to get a post up responding to your ideas in the next 48 hours, rather than a comment here. But just as a preview, you are right, both of you, in this economy I was not making a good argument with the “get another job” statement. Rather than saying I didn’t like the argument I probably shouldn’t have used it! Instead what I should have said is this: if someone wants something not covered by health benefits, then they should use their salary for it. An employer has no say over what an employer spends his or her money on. But for benefits the employer does have a say. More soon. Please keep commenting here if you have ideas because I can address them in the post.

    • Matt

      I have actually been thinking along similar lines regarding the salary vs. benefits line. I wonder if, in an alternate universe, this whole debacle couldn’t have taken another turn and started a movement away from fringe benefits from employers. That is what I would ultimately like to see – I think our current system is outright lunacy when you think about it. It would be much simpler if all employers simply converted the cost of benefits into higher salaries and all employees sought out their own health insurance and other so called benefits. As I have noted elsewhere on this blog, the history of benefits really goes back only to WWII and the structured wage limits that were placed on the economy. When employers couldn’t entice employees with higher salaries, they started offering benefits and the rest, as they say, is history. Without those wage restrictions, though, there is no need for the benefits system we have. I have also said elsewhere on this blog that I will at some point write a piece on the ethics of our silly system. I have to get around to that sooner rather than later, I think. It just keeps coming up.

      • Kelly Pellas

        Matt,

        That’s what the self-employed essentially have had to do. It was extremely difficult to get coverage without massive deductibles and premiums. An employer’s costs would not come close to covering the costs for an individual/family to get comparable private coverage. Hopefully the new exchange will alleviate the problems associated with seeking insurance as an individual or family. I also hope the exchange will wean individuals away from the employer based option.

    • Kelly Pellas

      Brian,

      Employers shouldn’t be involved in providing health coverage at all, but they are. Regardless, the government has imposed laws to insure that a minimum standard for the insurance company is adhered to. The employer is just the middleman. They take the money from the employee (whether they advertise that is another story) and they pass it on to the insurance company. The insurance companies are required to follow the mandates imposed by the government. While the employer might have some say in the benefits they provide, the government, by attempting to ensure that every individual gets the medical coverage they need, sets a minimum standard.

      Your comment, “but for benefits the employer does have a say”, is only partially correct, but it shouldn’t be correct at all. The employer should have NOTHING to do with their employers healthcare–but since they’ve been put into the position of middleman, we should give them complete control of their employee’s medical coverage? That’s completely counterintuitive.

      I can’t say it enough times and you both seem to agree, the employer should not be providing medical coverage, but since they are, their interests should not be allowed to override the employee’s.

      • Matt

        That’s what the self-employed essentially have had to do. It was extremely difficult to get coverage without massive deductibles and premiums. An employer’s costs would not come close to covering the costs for an individual/family to get comparable private coverage. Hopefully the new exchange will alleviate the problems associated with seeking insurance as an individual or family. I also hope the exchange will wean individuals away from the employer based option.

        I’m with you here.

  • Brian Green

    Alright, new post is up. I’m not completely happy with it because the issue has so many aspects to it and I only addressed five out of about 10 that I seriously considered including.

  • Brian Green

    I deleted my follow up post.

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