A New Mandate
Published in The Journal Record
March 21, 2012
Lisbeth Salander gets really angry when someone tells her what to do. The main character of the novel and movie, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” often resorts to violence if pushed too far. As one of the oddest and most bizarre heroines in modern literature, Salander sets an anti-establishment tone that is extreme even by today’s “Occupy Wall Street” crowd.It does seem that our actions are increasingly being mandated by those who think they know what is best for us. Over 20 states have joined in a lawsuit of the Federal Government and the Affordable Care Act protesting that the Individual Mandate is an example of constitutional overreach. At the heart of these lawsuits is the argument the government should simply not have the power to require us to buy something, no matter how worthy the cause.
The recent explosion over requiring Catholic employers to provide contraceptive coverage is but the latest in a series of irritations to those who perceive their freedoms being eroded. The logic of the proponents of this new requirement is simple ~ they believe this is really about reproductive freedom for female employees and that Catholic employers should not be able to infringe on that right. The Church would argue such provisions simply violate their theology and thus the constitutional principle of the free practice of religion. Even though a majority of young Catholic couples use contraceptives, the idea of forcing Catholic employers to provide this coverage smacks them as an abuse of their rights.
Polls seem to indicate the majority of Americans tend to side with the president on this one. Even though contraceptives are a relatively cheap drug, who among us does not like free? So, to quell the storm the president deftly moved to a compromise position as he told us the Church would not have to provide this coverage. In fact, their insurance companies would now be required to do so at no cost.
Through this slight-of-hand the president made the problem disappear while ignoring the fact that many Catholic employers are self-insured with no third party insurance company between them and their employees. In announcing this “compromise” the president has, in fact, issued another mandate.
In the furor over religious rights versus women’s reproductive rights, the logic of this new requirement seems to have completely escaped the conversation. In order to satisfy the Catholic Church’s religious freedom issue, the president has created a new requirement (re: mandate) that appears nowhere in the law. He would now require, without legal backing, a private company (the insurer) to provide a free service to customers whether the company would choose it or not. This is a stunning assumption of power.
If Ms. Salander was as regulated as the insurance companies, she would really be angry.
Stanley Hupfeld’s new book, “Political Malpractice – How the Politicians Made a Mess of Health Reform,” is available at http://www.tatepublishing.com/bookstore/book.php?w=978-1-61862-292-1 and will be available for order in bookstores on April 17, 2012.