Health Insurance Made Simple
By Patrick F. Cannon
You buy life insurance. You die. Your beneficiaries collect and head for the French Riviera to mourn your passing. If they’re truly lucky, you die by accident with a policy with double indemnity! But don’t commit suicide unless you’re clever enough to hide the fact.
While there are several kinds of life insurance, once one decides whether whole life or term insurance, it’s relatively simple. You pay the premium and they pay up if you die. Car insurance is also relatively simple. You decide on the level of coverage (no deductible, $500 deductible; level of liability; rental car or not; new car replacement; etc), then pay your premium. If a Steinway concert grand piano falls from a great height and crushes your car, you can expect some kind of payment.
When we come to health insurance, all bets are off. Since the Federal government has inserted itself, you may be required to pay for stuff you don’t want, need or are actually opposed to for religious or moral reasons. This morning’s news (Tuesday, October 10, 2017) reported that the Trump administration was rescinding a previous requirement that birth control be a required benefit in health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Predictably, a female law student at Notre Dame University – one of the institutions that objected to the requirement on religious grounds – is suing to have the requirement reinstated.
Despite the undoubted fact that a majority of Roman Catholics disagree with and actually flout their church’s ban on birth control, the church has steadfastly held firm. Before the requirement was removed, you won’t be surprised to discover that Notre Dame and many other religious organizations of all faiths had sued the government, claiming that the mandate violated the religious freedom clause in the Bill of Rights. Presumably, they will now withdraw their suits, or at least put them on pause.
As you might imagine, lawsuits were immediately threatened by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and others, citing the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment; and the establishment clause of the First Amendment, which essentially mandates the separation of church and state. It’s a tricky one, isn’t it? Religious groups argue that the birth control mandate violates their religious freedom rights and the ACLU and others argue that dropping it violates the right of every woman to have access to birth control services no matter the tenets of the religious organization she has chosen to work for or study with.
Wouldn’t you just love to be a Federal judge just now? While you might agree with one side or the other, you will find that the framers didn’t bother to say anything about the right to health insurance, or any other insurance for that matter. So, you’re stuck with the First and Fourteenth Amendments, conflicting interpretations and all.
You can also bet that there will be lawsuits aplenty as a result of Illinois Governor Rauner’s signing of a bill that permits Medicaid to pay for abortions in the state. In case you didn’t know, Medicaid is funded by the Federal government, but generally administered by the states. Rauner claimed he signed the bill because poor women shouldn’t be denied the abortions that wealthier women could afford. Fair enough if you believe in abortion, which the Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago made clear he doesn’t.
(For the record, I’m covered by Medicare, which for some reason doesn’t cover either birth control or abortion.)
Federal involvement is a good thing in many areas. But the current health care mess is a perfect example of what happens when a national consensus is not reached or even sought by one or another of the political parties. Unlike many other countries, this is not a “one size fits all” kind of society. We try to make it so at our peril.
Copyright 2017, Patrick F. Cannon