Another Recommendation For Universal Health Care
Friday, Secretary of Health and Human Services, Katherine Sebelius, announced yet another modification to the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that all employers provide full woman’s health care in their health insurance coverage, and at no extra cost to the employee. This was one more attempt at finding a compromised with faith based groups (prominently the catholic church) who object to providing birth control options on religious belief reasons. While the Affordable Care Act requires no one to utilize any birth control method, faith based groups object to their having to pay for offering these methods.
Some question whether the issue is “cost” or the issue is really a way of forcing others to observe a certain religious view or belief. The Catholic Church has strenuously said this issue is about money and since the Church (and its affiliated hospitals, universities and charities) are mostly self insured, previous compromises still fell back on the church to pay.
This latest HHS compromise angles to put the birth control methods’ costs on private insurers who plan to participate in the Federal “insurance exchanges”. We will see just how sincere the cost issue is as faith based groups formulate their responses.
Let’s stop a moment. Why are employers involved in health care insurance at all?
From a historical perspective, following World War II employers found that offering health insurance was a useful method to lure and retain good employees. When crafting the Affordable Care Act whose main goal was to provide universal coverage (no more denying coverage for pre-existing conditions), the decision was made to piggy back on the current “private for profit” insurers. Employers would continue to distribute health insurance. To supplement these two methods, “exchanges” would be established where those still not covered could purchase coverage. (Also within ACA were measures designed to gradually gain control of medical cost increases and in time reduce the yearly 2-3 times the rate of inflation increases to something below the rate of inflation. High costs were locked in for a long time.)
Elegant would not be the words I would choose to describe ACA. Noble but doomed would be more appropriate. Before ACA, the US spent more per capita on health care costs than any other country in the world. That is the case today. To put an exclamation point on this, the US spends more than twice as much as other modern countries (and those countries insure everyone and have better health outcomes).
The American public has not awoken to the fact that health care cost are hurting the competitiveness of American businesses and are sucking money out of everyone’s pockets. It is also clear that many go without adequate health care for cost reasons.
There can be no free lunch with health care. We must pay for it. The question are (1) why should be be paying so much, and (2) why should we be wasting so much time and energy on women’s health rights? Why isn’t the Catholic Church (and other religious objectors) campaigning for affordable universal health care?