Researching my thesis on 21st Century Political Nuttitude doesn’t sound like a cocoon of sanity. But our toddlers Nancy and Michelle are still learning they’re not flying squirrels, so they keep Mrs. Squirrel and me hopping. And with BPI’s production of The Gardener’s Lament opening Friday, Regis is all a-chitter. So my research on political craziness, ironically, is the least crazy part of my day.
Still, it was hard not to reach for the macadamias when I saw that Senate Republicans are trying to put a poisoned birth control pill in the federal highway bill. The amendment, sponsored by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), would allow any employer to prohibit employee insurance coverage for any medical care that for which the employer has a “moral objection.”
Under the Blunt Amendment, the ‘conscience clause’ would not be limited to businesses owned by religious institutions, as are many hospitals. Any employer could claim a “moral objection” to covering any health care procedure. The language of the amendment does not require the “moral objection” to have a religious basis. If an employer’s “moral objection” is merely that he thinks child immunizations, annual physicals, pap smears, and mammograms are a waste of money … the company health insurance could not cover them, even if the insurance company offers such coverage with no additional premiums.
This is not about “religious freedom.” As Mother Jones‘s Adam Serwer reports, it’s about repealing the Affordable Care Act:
If Republican leaders get their way and Blunt’s bill becomes law, a boss who regarded overweight people and smokers with moral disgust could exclude coverage of obesity and tobacco screening from his employees’ health plans. A Scientologist employer could deny its employees depression screening because Scientologists believe psychiatry is morally objectionable. A management team that thought HIV victims brought the disease upon themselves could excise HIV screening from its employees’ insurance coverage. Your boss’ personal prejudices, not science or medical expertise, would determine which procedures your insurance would cover for you and your kids.
“One of the fundamental purposes of the Affordable Care Act was making sure all health insurance plans cover basic services. The Blunt amendment would do away with that,” says Sarah Lipton-Lubet, a policy counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union. “A business could deny coverage for cervical cancer screening for unmarried employees, out of opposition to premarital sex.”
And as it’s only a matter of time before they realize the distinction between ($X wages + $Y premiums) and $(X+Y) wages is not moral but purely accounting … expect some Republican to soon propose that employers should be legally allowed to fire employees who pay for such care themselves. Your employer issues your paycheck, after all….
Most Americans recognize this for the insanity it is. As the National Institutes of Health note, “Every pregnancy has some risk of [health] problems.” It makes medical sense that women should be able to decide whether and when to accept those risks, and most Americans agree. Public Policy Polling found that 56% of Americans overall, including 53% of independents, support the Obama administration’s decision to require health plans to cover prescription birth control with no additional out-of-pocket fees. Among Catholics, 53% overall and 62% of independents support the rule.
But the same poll found that 58% of Republicans and 73% of Republican Catholics oppose the rule and, with GOP voter enthusiasm sagging, it seems Republicans hope the birth control fight will energize their base.
In his interview with TPM, Sen. Blunt proposed this as an amendment to the federal highway bill because “I’d like to get it on a bill the President has to sign. But I’d also like to see it debated and voted on, and so we’ll just see how that goes.”
AndThe Hill reports that Majority Leader Harry Reid and other Senate Democrats welcome that debate and that vote.
I agree. When Republicans are driving themselves insane, Democrats need to let them drive right on over that cliff. Let Republicans have their culture war tantrums, publicly and on voting on the record. Because as The Nation‘s Chris Hayes says … we’re winning, and we need to act like it.
Good day and good nuts.