Should the Government Force Businesses to Pay for Contraceptives?

The Supreme Court of the United States recently ruled in favor of a company call Hobby Lobby, a closely held corporation (that means it only has a few stockholders) owned by people with strong religious beliefs, who believe life begins at conception and that certain forms of birth control should not be used. This company provides health care benefits to its employees.

As stated by the Supreme Court opinion on this matter, “At issue here are regulations promulgated by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA), which, as relevant here, requires specified employers’ group health plans to furnish “preventive care and screenings” for women without “any cost sharing requirements.”

What that means is that the health care plans must furnish to employees, at no additional cost to those employees, “coverage for the 20 contraceptive methods approved by the Food and Drug Administration, including the 4 that may have the effect of preventing an already fertilized egg from developing any further by inhibiting its attachment to the uterus.”

The company wanted an exemption from this above noted provision, on religious grounds, an exemption already granted to churches and other religious non-profit organizations. The government said “No Way.” The Supreme Court felt otherwise.

The basis of the Supreme Court’s decision was “The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) prohibits the “Government [from] substantially burden[ing] a person’s exercise of religion.”

What are the consequences to Hobby Lobby if it does not comply with the Affordable Care Act (ie: Obamacare)? From the Supreme Court opinion: “If they (the owners) and their companies refuse to provide contraceptive coverage, they face severe economic consequences: about $475 million per year for Hobby Lobby… And if they drop coverage altogether, they could face penalties of roughly $26 million.”

Think about that. The government has the right under Obamacare to fine the Hobby Lobby $26 million if it does not pay for its employees contraceptives. Wow! Do you really think that is what our founding fathers thought our government should be doing?

Congressman Alan Lowenthal (4th District) released the following statement: “This marks a serious defeat for all women, whose private medical decisions should only be left up to individual women in consultation with their doctors. I am truly disappointed to see the Supreme Court’s all-male majority recognize that ‘closely-held for-profit companies’ have a right to the free exercise of religion that apparently trumps a woman’s right to make her own healthcare decisions.”

Obviously Mr. Lowenthal is gifted at making misleading statements. This decision in no way affects the private medical decisions of women. All it does is to say that while you may make any private medical decision you want, if one of those is to use birth control, the government cannot force your employer to pay for it. Further, the right of the closely held business is not trumping the right of woman to make their own decisions. The issue is who must pay for it. Right now Obamacare wants to force employers to pay for birth control. What’s next? Forcing employers to pay for Vitamin C, hemorrhoid cream and cotton swabs?

While the Supreme Court took the route of exempting Holly Lobby from the Obamacare mandate on birth control on religious grounds, there really is a bigger issue which the Supreme Court did not address. That bigger issue is the one of personal freedom and liberty. As business owners and entrepreneurs we put our capital at risk to provide income for ourselves and our families, and in most cases jobs for those people who work for us. But it is our money at risk, not the government’s money. We have to ask the question, “Where do government rules and regulations go beyond the mandate of protecting employees from abuse and unfair treatment, to forcing businesses to operate in a fashion and manner that some bureaucrats and politicians in Washington who have never operated a business deem appropriate?”

Obamacare goes too far. The mandate that an employer pay for 20 different types of birth control is an excessive intrusion on the personal freedom and liberty of business owners. Employees whose employers will not pay for birth control have choices. The first one is to not work for that employer but to seek employment elsewhere (after all, Hobby Lobby is one of about 30 million businesses in this country, most of which could care less if the health plan covers birth control). Secondly, the employee could chose to pay for birth control out of his or her own pocket (which is not a financial burden to almost all employees—birth control pills can cost as little as $9.00 a month and you can buy 100 condoms for $29.95 on the internet). The third choice is, well use your imagine. There are many ways of having sex that don’t involve the risk of pregnancy.

If the government wants everyone in the country to have free access to birth control, then why doesn’t the government pay for that? (Of course, us taxpayers might object to our money being used to pay for something virtually everyone could afford to purchase on their own). Why force businesses to cover the cost of something that some people object to, that most employees don’t need and/or don’t use (only about 10 million women in the US use birth control pills), and further, that would cost the employee on a monthly basis about the same as a tuna sandwich and Coke?

Washington, as proven by Obamacare and the fact that this case actually got to the Supreme Court, has forgotten its purpose. Your job in Washington is to protect the freedom and liberty of citizens of this country, not to force business owners to carry out your social engineering agenda. That in itself is a significant infringement on the freedom and liberty of every business owner in America.

Small Business Impact: There are two significant impacts to small business. First, if you don’t object to birth control on religious grounds, the cost of your health care plan that you provide your employees will go up so that the health care provider can include birth control under the plan. This could put a significant financial burden on many small businesses that are still struggling with rising costs and a weak economy. Second, this sets a pattern of the government forcing rules and regulations down the throat of small business people, adding significantly to the cost of doing business and creating additional reporting and compliance costs, for any whim of the government that has nothing to do with protecting employees from abuse or mistreatment by employers.

Author: Michael Manahan

Copyright 2015

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