[UPDATE: HHS Secretary Sebelius addressed this very point with reporters with what sounds like a major concession to the no-contraception coverage crowd; see UPDATE below.]
Self-Insured Complicate Health Deal
Yeah they do. Last Saturday the Times had noted that many large Catholic institutions had slipped out of state regulation and under the Federal ERISA umbrella by self-insuring after states such as New York and California had adopted strict rules about the provision of contraception coverage to employees. However, there was no mention of that issue in their reporting on Obama's "compromise" (or by Obama himself).
Nontheless, we now get this (my emphasis):
The Obama administration thought it had found a way to ease mounting objections to a requirement in the new health care act that all employers — including religiously affiliated hospitals and universities — offer coverage for birth control to women free of charge.
It would make the insurers cover the costs, rather than the organizations themselves.
But the administration announced the compromise plan before it had figured out how to address one conspicuous point: Like most large employers, many religiously affiliated organizations choose to insure themselves rather than hire an outside company to assume the risk.
Now, the organizations are trying to determine how to reconcile their objections to offering birth control on religious grounds with their role as insurers — or whether there can be any reconciliation at all. And the administration still cannot put the thorny issue to rest.
Uh huh - that point is so conspicuous that the Times has taken nearly a week to cover the Administration's lack of clarity on that subject. My goodness, the bishops were making that very point on the Friday Obama announced his "compromise", but I guess the bishops don't have the Times fax number the way the White House press office does.
The administration has remained mostly silent on how self-insured institutions will be treated, other than to say that the details will be worked out in meetings with religious leaders in the days and weeks to come.
“This policy will be developed collaboratively so that the ultimate outcome works for religious employers, their workers and the public,” an administration official said Wednesday.
Nicholas P. Cafardi, dean emeritus and professor of law at Duquesne University, a Catholic institution, said that President Obama gave the bishops exactly what they asked for.
“The only serious issue left is self-insurance,” he said Wednesday on a conference call with reporters. “But the Obama administration has said it wants to work with these organizations so they’re not required to violate their conscience. I’m sure they mean that in good faith.”
The conference call was arranged by Faith in Public Life in support of the contraception deal, so even supporters are saying that the current ground needs to be revised "in good faith".
Let's close with thoughts from Michael Galligan-Stierle, president of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities.
“There’s been a promise to have a conversation, but we haven’t heard about when it’s going to be,” he said. “We’re waiting for that.”
UPDATE: HHS Secretary Sebelius was asked about this by reporters today. From the Washington Times:
Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius said Wednesday that self-insuring religious employers will be exempted from a contraception coverage mandate, clearing up a question raised by Catholic groups and other opponents who continued protesting the rule this week.
“Yes, I think that we will apply it to both,” Mrs. Sebelius told reporters, saying a new rule the administration offered last week to quell criticism will apply both to religious employers who buy plans for their workers and to those who self-insure.
“Whether it’s an insured plan or self-insured plan, that the employer who has a religious objection doesn’t have to directly offer or pay for contraception,” she said as reporters gathered around her Wednesday after a hearing on President Obama’s proposed budget before the Senate Finance Committee.
No one knows what that means, since the rules have not been finalized. For a religious employer who buys coverage from an insurance company, the Obama game was "Let's Pretend" - the employer pays a premium for health coverage other than contraception services and the insurer provides the contraception coverage "for free", presumably paid for by the premiums collected from the company.
Just how that accountung chicanery could be applied when the employer is also the insurer remains utterly mysterious, but Ms. Sebelius says it is all taken care of.
If the national result is similar to the outcome in New York and California, this new rule will further divide the opposition. Large Catholic institutions went the self-insurance route; small institutions felt they could not afford the liability.
That means Notre Dame is safe.
DECLARING VICTORY WHILE CONCEDING DEFEAT: Here is how Politico covered Ms. Sebilius' remarks:
But Sebelius reiterated that the administration is committed to respecting the beliefs of religious employers, including those that self-insure.
“Whether it’s an insured plan or a self-insured plan, [the rule will mean] that the employer who has the religious objection doesn’t have to directly offer or pay for contraception,” Sebelius said.
“At the end of the day,” Sebelius said, the policy “is a big triumph for women.”
FOR THE LEGAL EAGLES: The Times and the WSJ offer varying views on the law behind the contracption "compromise". Just how will the Restoration of Religious Freedom Act apply?
LIFE'S MYSTERIES: Amidst some info on the self-insurance market the Times includes this:
In a curious twist, several Catholic organizations have chosen to self-insure in recent years to avoid the requirements of the state mandates, said Michael Galligan-Stierle, president of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities.
Curiouser and curiouser.
NANCY PELOSI: Make 'em pay! Where is the liberal respect for a diversity of viewpoints?