By Dave Andrusko
Leading up to and coming out of the oral arguments delivered to the United States Supreme Court yesterday, there’ve been a tremendous number of very thoughtful explanations of what is really going on with the HHS mandate which compels employers to provide health coverage for drugs and procedures to which they have moral or religious objections.
Jonathan S. Tobin, writing at “The Shrinking Mandate and Freedom,” compares the unyielding determination to ram this tremendously controversial mandate down the throat of unwilling participants with the Obama administration’s politically expeditious string of exemptions and delays allowing individuals and businesses to put off the mandate to purchase health plans or face a penalty.
To take just the latest example: it is transparently obvious why the Administration “has decided to give extra time to Americans who say that they are unable to enroll in health plans through the federal insurance marketplace by the March 31 deadline,” to quote Amy Goldstein of the Washington Post. Extra time, that is for “all consumers who have begun to apply for coverage on HealthCare.gov,” who will have until about mid-April to ask for an extension. (How will anyone know that a person has “begun”? “This method will rely on an honor system,” Goldstein explains. “[T]he government will not try to determine whether the person is telling the truth.”)
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Such behavior is “President Obama’s favorite tactic in trying to soften the blow of his signature health-care law prior to the 2014 midterms,” Tobin writes. “The point of that exercise is to reduce the pain felt by both businesses and consumers in order to tamp down the general outrage about the law that has been growing since its passage.”
So if flexibility/expediency is the name of the game for Obama, why is Hobby Lobby (one of the two companies whose lawsuits were combined and argued before the High Court Tuesday) facing fines of $300 million to $400 million dollars for non-compliance? Why is Obama (to quote Tobin) “willing to go to legal war over” this?
“The government’s arguments are already vague about its justification for this decision,” Tobin write. The arguments about “women’s rights and health-care costs that are put forward by administration cheerleaders” are “red herrings.”
One of the important considerations Tobin raises is to remind his readers (through a quote from Gabriel Malor) that
“It is not a radical departure from the norm for businesses to pick and choose what health coverage they provide. In fact, that was the norm for decades. What was new and harmful and possibly part of a slippery slope to lawlessness was the decision of Secretary [Kathleen] Sebelius to impose her will on businesses, for the first time demanding that they provide morally objectionable coverage or face crippling penalties.”
Given all the exemptions, it’s hard to argue there “is a compelling government interest in forcing Hobby Lobby to bend to the will of the administration.”
“Under these circumstances with widespread exemptions the arguments in favor of the government aren’t merely exposed as constitutionally weak but a demonstration of the administration’s hostility to religious believers who disagree with the mandate. A nation that values religious freedom less than it does Barack Obama’s political calculations is one that is abandoning the First Amendment’s guarantee of free exercise of religion.”