Monday, February 13, 2012


I wrote on the president’s mandate that Catholic entities pay for birth-control and abortifacients both last Friday and the week before that. But as I wrote on Friday, the president came out with his “compromise”:  instead of having the Catholic Church pay for these services that go against its conscience, he would simply have them pay for the insurance plan without those services, and then the insurance companies involved would go ahead and provide the services for free.

On Saturday, economist Greg Mankiew posted a very clear summary of the “compromise.” It’s brief, so I’m including the whole thing.
Semantics at the Highest Level
Consider these two policies:
A.     An employer is required to provide its employees health insurance that covers birth control.
B.     An employer is required to provide its employees health insurance. The health insurance company is required to cover birth control.
I can understand someone endorsing both A and B, and I can understand someone rejecting both A and B. But I cannot understand someone rejecting A and embracing B, because they are effectively the same policy. Ultimately, all insurance costs are passed on to the purchaser, so I cannot see how policy B is different in any way from policy A, other than using slightly different words to describe it.
Yet it seems that the White House yesterday switched from A to B, and that change is being viewed by some as a significant accommodation to those who objected to policy A. The whole thing leaves me scratching my head.
In other words, it is not a compromise; it is simply word play.
A couple of days earlier Mankiw had linked to a Wall Street Journal piece written by John H. Cochrane, “The Real Trouble withthe Birth-Control Mandate,” with some additional basic insurance information it is helpful to understand. Cochrane says,
Insurance is supposed to mean a contract, by which a company pays for large, unanticipated expenses in return for a premium: expenses like your house burning down, your car getting stolen or a big medical bill.
Insurance is a bad idea for small, regular and predictable expenses. There are good reasons that your car insurance company doesn’t add $100 per year to your premium and then cover oil changes, and that your health insurance doesn’t charge $50 more per year and cover toothpaste. You’d have to fill out mountains of paperwork, the oil-change and toothpaste markets would become much less competitive, and you’d end up spending more.
He goes on to point out that the government’s interference with individual decisions about purchasing birth-control and related things is bound to raise the cost of those things, making it even more difficult for poor people to choose to pay for them—except that the government will “make it free.” But since they aren’t actually free, government is in fact causing society as a whole to pay more.
There’s a larger point than the religious exemption. Cochrane ends his piece with this:
The critics fell for a trap. By focusing on an exemption for church-related institutions, critics effectively admit that it is right for the rest of us to be subjected to this sort of mandate. They accept the horribly misnamed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and they resign themselves to chipping away at its edges. No, we should throw it out, and fix the terrible distortions in the health-insurance and health-care markets.
Sure, churches should be exempt. We should all be exempt.
With Obamacare, we have a series of unprecedented and progressively onerous mandates:
·         Never before has the federal government required individuals to enter the marketplace and make a purchase simply because they breathe American air.
·         Never before has the federal government required individuals to enter the marketplace and make a purchase that violates their conscience, which they would never purchase of their own free will.
·         Never before has business (nor a person, since slavery was outlawed) been required to provide products/services for which it will receive no remuneration.
All, in my opinion, are considerably more tyrannical than the grievances listed in the Declaration of Independence that led the founders to break free from Britain. All are clearly unconstitutional. If we cannot get the president impeached for these (and other) violations of our law, then we must, absolutely must, remove him from office through this year’s election.

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