I found the recent political flap about President Obama, the birth control coverage mandate in the ACA, the Catholic Church, Catholic education/business enterprises, Sandra Fluke (Law Student at Georgetown University Law Center), Rush Limbaugh, who buys lunch and “free” health care, very interesting in regard to how some politicians and activists fail to understand or deliberately misuse our Constitution and Bill of Rights to further personal agendas. Before I get started on this rant, try to remember, there is no “free lunch” or “free” health care.
First, let’s dispose of Rush Limbaugh, both figuratively and literally. In my opinion, Limbaugh went from being a far right wing-nut buffoon to being a slanderous misogynist who has gone so far over the line that Ms. Fluke should consider legal action. The only thing to thank Rush for is shining the light of national attention on the controversy, if not the focus on the real issues. And, you might ask, are the real issues?
At the center of the controversy is the American principal of “separation of church and state.” Relevant passage in the First Amendment to the US Constitution reads:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
The First Amendment prevents both the government and religion from interfering the the individual’s “free exercise” of their religious beliefs. The Amendment was not formulated to protect the interests, dogma or mythology of religious institutions. It was written to protect the individual’s right to freely exercise their beliefs, not to promote the interests, dogma and political power of religious institutions.
Organized religion, sects and cults have the right to any set of beliefs and their unique dogma and mythology. They may use their pulpits to promote their religious beliefs and values. When they cross the line to impose their values, dogma and mythology on individuals through legislative lobbying or directly supporting politicians sworn to promote their religious agenda, they become public special interest groups, should register as lobbyists and should lose their tax-exempt status.
The Catholic Church probably accepts no federal funding to support church operations or education/training of priests and nuns. These individuals are essentially “owned” by the Church, and the institution, as a self-funded entity, could determine their health care benefits. I am assuming nuns with polycystic ovaries are prescribed birth controlled pills to treat their condition. I don’t know if the Church pays for them.
Where any religious organization manages a non-sectarian business operation (e.g., Georgetown University Law Center, hospitals, nursing homes), hires American citizens and accepts federal or state funding, they must play by federal and state regulations, including all the provisions of the ACA, regarding their employees and customers or suffer the consequences.
This brings us to the question of, “Who Pays?” In the case of Sandra Fluke, the Law Center was the bag man. Ms. Fluke, through her student health service, paid her insurance premiums. The dollars came, as they do for all American workers, out of her pocket. Georgetown University (the “bag man”) may negotiate the price of the insurance contract/premium, but have no right to impose their religious beliefs over ACA mandates or the choice of health care benefits made by the individual.
This brings us to “free” health care. The worker, not the employer or institution, pays for all health care. Health care premiums are paid as part of employee benefits or directly out of pocket by the insured. There is no free lunch or free health care.
There are health care benefits (usually preventive health services – mammograms, immunizations, etc.) that have no co-pay and no deductible. Through the eyes of the insured worker, the benefit is “free” as no additional dollars are spent out of pocket. However, the insurance premium that covers the cost of the care, as a major part of the cost of labor, comes out of the workers pocket. In the case of Ms. Fluke, the student health service insurance premium was paid directly out of her pocket.
This situation is another example of how our health care crisis impacts the individual. Universal Health Care would eliminate this problem by separating church and health care. Georgetown University Law Center could no longer impose religious dogma on any employee or student.
America must maintain strict separation of church and state. As important to individual freedom, America must maintain strict separation of church and health care.