Scott Brown, who is down in the polls and scrambling desperately for a winning strategy, has apparently concluded that his path to victory runs through those voters who … don’t like birth control??!!
As you may have heard, right-wing Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) has offered a truly extreme amendment to the Affordable Care Act. Of course it is not going to pass, but it’s turned into something of a flash point. And the critical thing to realize about Blunt’s amendment is this: it goes way beyond birth control, and it goes way beyond religious belief. Blunt’s amendment would permit any employer, insurer, or health care provider to deny coverage for anything, as long as they say that covering that thing is against either their religious beliefs or their “moral convictions” - and “moral convictions” is not defined in the amendment. Apparently, if you say “I’m agin’ it” three times, that’ll do.
For the sticklers out there, here is the relevant text of Blunt’s amendment:
A health plan shall not be considered to have failed to provide the essential health benefits package described in subsection (a) … on the basis that it declines to provide coverage of specific items or services because— (i) providing coverage (or, in the case of a sponsor of a group health plan, paying for coverage) of such specific items or services is contrary to the religious beliefs or moral convictions of the sponsor, issuer, or other entity offering the plan; or (ii) such coverage (in the case of individual coverage) is contrary to the religious beliefs or moral convictions of the purchaser or beneficiary of the coverage.
Nothing about abortion or contraception, just “specific items or services,” which seems potentially to include everything. And note that “religious beliefs” and “moral convictions” are distinct categories of reasons that it’s OK to deny coverage. So even if your religion doesn’t say anything about a particular health care service, an employer can deny coverage just because, well, he doesn’t like it. Employer doesn’t want to pay for AIDS treatment because he thinks it’s a disease that bad people like gays and drug addicts get? No problem – his “moral convictions” let him deny coverage. Here are two more examples, from health care expert (and Warren supporter) John McDonough:
Let’s say you had me as your employer. Let’s say I assumed all folks with substance abuse problems should join Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous, and that should be enough treatment. Under the Blunt-Brown proposal, I would be acting within my rights as your employer.
Here’s another: regular readers of this column know that I’m vegan, in other words, I don’t eat anything that has a mother. That’s a health judgment on my part, and it’s also a moral conviction. Under this proposed legislation, I would be within my rights as your employer to provide no coverage for any essential or preventive health benefit tied to Type II diabetes because I believe it’s largely caused by our awful American diet. I guess no diabetic would want to work for me, and then I’d save a lot of money too. All potentially legal under the Blunt-Brown view of how things should be.
Folks, this is crazy talk. And Scott Brown is all for it. Here’s the email from Team Brown that I just got:
One of our most fundamental rights as a people is the freedom of religion. It was right here in Plymouth, Massachusetts that pilgrims from Europe established a colony because of religious persecution at home.
Now, it is Harvard Professor Elizabeth Warren who has assumed the mantle of oppressor. She and her allies on the left are dictating to Catholics and other people of faith that they must do as they are told when it comes to health care or face the consequences, regardless of their personal religious beliefs.
That’s not the America our Founding Fathers envisioned, and it’s just one of the unhealthy side effects of Obamacare, which seeks to impose a one-size-fits-all, government-knows-best health care program on the whole country.
Obamacare is bad law and needs to be repealed. Until that day arrives, it’s important we fight to protect the public from some of its worst aspects.
I support a conscience exemption in health care for Catholics and other people of faith. That’s why I signed on to Senator Roy Blunt’s bill to restore the conscience protections in the law that existed prior to the passage of Obamacare.
Professor Warren is opposed to providing a conscience exemption. Her view is that government can mandate religious people and organizations to act in ways that are contrary to their most deeply-held principles. This type of thinking strikes at the very heart of the religious freedoms enshrined in our Constitution.
My last opponent, Martha Coakley, took the same position and said Catholics who work in emergency rooms should find a new line of work. This attitude is highly offensive to all Americans, not just people of faith.
Religious liberty is at the core of our nation’s founding, and we in Massachusetts know that better than anyone. It is has helped make us a strong and diverse nation. We must continue to cherish it and fight back against those who would chip away at it.
Now, either Scott hasn’t read the Blunt amendment and doesn’t know what’s in it, or he doesn’t care (I’m not sure which is worse). Because to read his email, you’d think the Blunt amendment was all about religious liberty, whereas, as we have just demonstrated it’s not. And to read his email, you’d think that employers who simply don’t like something (whether for religious or other reasons) have always been allowed to refuse to pay for it, whereas in fact that is not the case. Blunt’s kooky amendment goes way beyond anything we’ve ever contemplated.
In short, Scott Brown is panicking. When people panic, they often make bad decisions because they are so freaked out that they fail to think through the consequences of their actions. It sure looks to me like that’s exactly what Brown is doing with the Blunt amendment. Blunt is an extreme guy, and his amendment is an extreme proposal. No way it’s going to fly in Massachusetts.
Elizabeth Warren’s statement on this business is on the flip.
New Proposal Threatens Everyone’s Health Care
ELIZABETH WARREN CONDEMNS REPUBLICAN BILL CO-SPONSORED BY SENATOR BROWN
Proposal would allow any employer or insurance company to deny anyone access to any health service
SOMERVILLE, MA– Consumer advocate and U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren today said a Republican proposal that would allow any employer or insurance company to deny anyone access to any health service is irresponsible.
“This is a completely new attack that threatens everyone’s health care,” said Warren, of the proposal, introduced by Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) and co-sponsored by Senator Scott Brown (R-MA). “It is an irresponsible assault on the health care of every family in Massachusetts and around our country.”
“I respect the solution President Obama provided last week that ensures that religious institutions are not forced to cover contraception but still makes sure women can get the health services they need. This new bill is not about any of that. This bill would allow any employer or insurance company to refuse to cover anyone for anything,” Warren said.
The Blunt-Brown bill is different from previous proposals, taking an extremely broad approach that allows any employer or insurance company to claim any objection and use it to deny any health insurance coverage to anyone, for any health service. The company needs to claim only that it has a “moral conviction,” an expansive term that is not defined in the proposed legislation.
“Scott Brown is on the wrong side here, standing with Washington and Republican extremists and against the people of Massachusetts – our families, our seniors, and everyone who relies on health insurance to get the care they need,” said Warren. “This is a critical issue and when he ought to be putting the people of Massachusetts first, he’s not.”
The amendment, supported by Brown, was introduced as President Obama offered a compromise to religious institutions that were uncomfortable with offering contraceptive and other health care coverage to their employees. Supporters of the amendment wrongly claim it writes the compromise into law. In fact, it would undermine health insurance and health care, especially recently passed reforms expanding coverage.