Elizabeth Warren has an op-ed in the Boston Globe decrying Scott Brown's support of a conscience exception for employer-sponsored health care coverage. I am not a lawyer, but this strikes me as overheated:
Washington is so out of touch with what’s happening to families across this country that the Senate is about to vote on an amendment that would allow any insurance company or any employer to claim a vague “moral conviction’’ as an excuse to deny you health care coverage. Here’s the really astonishing news: Senator Scott Brown is not only voting for this amendment, he is fighting to get it passed.
What does this mean? If you are married and your employer doesn’t believe married couples should use birth control, then you could lose coverage for contraception. If you’re a pregnant woman who is single, and your employer doesn’t like it, you could be denied maternity care. This bill is about how to cut coverage for basic health care services for women.
Now Blunt claims that this bill simply restores the state of play that prevailed prior to ObamaCare. So, my questions:
1. Back in the day an amployer could simply not offer health insurance at all. But could an employer offer health insurance without maternity coverage, or would that run afoul of obvious sex-discrimination laws (not to mention public policy, which routinely is pro-family)? [Answer in UPDATE, but a spoiler alert - it invokes the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.]
2. If employers previously were able to deny maternity coverage, how many actually exercised that right? Why does Ms. Warren think that more employers will do so now?
FWIW, Brown claims Kennedy was on his side and cites a letter from the dying Ted Kennedy to the Pope:
Brown, who favors giving employers and health insurers broad moral and religious exemptions in health care coverage, has repeatedly quoted a letter that Kennedy, dying from brain cancer, asked President Barack Obama to hand-deliver to Pope Benedict XVI in Rome in 2009.
In the letter, Kennedy admitted to "human failings" and asked for the pope’s prayers.
But Brown has seized on a portion of the letter in which the prominent Catholic politician tells the Pope that he believes "in a conscience protection for Catholics in the health field." Kennedy made the comments in the context of the fight over Obama’s health care overhaul bill.
Lacking a Ouija board, who knows?
UPDATE: As to the issue of maternity leave for unwed mothers, the Blunt Amendment simply unwrites the impact of the 2010 Affordable Care Act. That rolls back the clock to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, which is quite clear and applies to companies with fifteen or more employees; from the EEOC summary:
- Health Insurance
Any health insurance provided by an employer must cover expenses for pregnancy-related conditions on the same basis as costs for other medical conditions. An employer need not provide health insurance for expenses arising from abortion, except where the life of the mother is endangered.
Pregnancy-related expenses should be reimbursed exactly as those incurred for other medical conditions, whether payment is on a fixed basis or a percentage of reasonable-and-customary-charge basis.
The amounts payable by the insurance provider can be limited only to the same extent as amounts payable for other conditions. No additional, increased, or larger deductible can be imposed.
Employers must provide the same level of health benefits for spouses of male employees as they do for spouses of female employees.
Elizabeth Warren is not a lawyer, and apparently not a researcher. Now, if she wants to claim that Messrs. Blunt and Brown may create a crisis for employees of very small companies, well, was that a crisis resolved by ObamaCare?