A Time to Offer Choice

 

The lie that works is the lie with at least a particle of truth.

This is the case with the outraged feminist response to the Hobby Lobby ruling. Conservatives were frozen in disbelief in 2012 as the “war on women” campaign swept in votes for Obama, and they are equally amazed now as the Democrats plan to make Hobby Lobby a campaign issue. How can it possibly work?

It might not be as effective this year as in 2012, but there’s no doubt it resonates with a certain segment of voters. It works in part because amid all the disinformation there’s a kernel of truth in the feminist response, something conservatives entirely agree with: an employer’s beliefs shouldn’t restrict a woman’s healthcare options.

Conservatives don’t usually get to this point — not because we disagree with it but because we do not believe it can trump the employer’s basic religious liberty. Further obscuring the point, the debate has been closely tied to abortion, which most of us don’t view as a healthcare option anyway. This issue is a must-win in the struggle to maintain religious liberty in America. However, our fellow citizens are more likely to continue to respect religious liberty when they see that it need not conflict with their other values. We’ve argued that Obamacare unnecessarily creates such a conflict, but the seeds were already in our system.

Let’s isolate that particle of truth and remove its sting by addressing the underlying problem: why is a woman’s health insurance (or, obviously, a man’s) chosen by the employer in the first place?

As an independent, capable woman, I resent the paternalism implied by a policy that expects me to depend on my employer to take care of me and make insurance decisions for me. I don’t want my employer to provide health insurance. I want them to pay me, not the insurance company, and let me choose for myself.

In the past, conservatives have proposed an individual tax credit for health insurance to balance out the employer tax credit. This is an idea whose time has come. It’s far from a complete healthcare solution, but it is a simple, marketable idea Republicans could unite around. It clearly contrasts with Obamacare’s philosophy, and answers the genuine dilemma that’s overlooked in the Hobby Lobby fallout.

“Why should my employer’s religious beliefs affect my health care?” We’re going to be hammered with this. In response, we can (and should) emphasize religious liberty. We can explain how overblown the issue is, that the vast majority of women are completely unaffected, that an employer’s failure to provide something doesn’t mean there is no access, etc. The argument that a woman could just spend her own money to buy contraceptives (or anything else) is legally legitimate — but utterly ineffective politically.

But we should seize the point of agreement: “You know, I agree with you. I don’t think you should be forced to depend on your employer for health insurance. You should have options if you don’t like what they offer. That’s why I support the Empowering Americans to Make Healthcare Choices Act, which increases your purchasing power for individual insurance. That way, if your employer’s policy has restrictions you don’t want, or if your employer doesn’t offer health insurance, you can say ‘no thanks’ and go choose whatever you want.”

Of course, this requires the repeal of Obamacare. That’s not a bug, it’s a feature.

There are 30 comments.

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  1. user_1938 Member
    user_1938
    @AaronMiller

    Leigh: However, our fellow-citizens are more likely to continue to respect religious liberty when they see that it need not conflict with their other values.

    In other words, they will respect individual liberty if it doesn’t require anything of them. They can’t be expected to practice what they preach: tolerance.

    Leigh: But we should seize the point of agreement: “You know, I agree with you. I don’t think you should be forced to depend on your employer for health insurance. You should have options if you don’t like what they offer.

    Agreed. Republicans must not only emphasize this general agreement but actively avoid debates about our disagreements. Liberal reporters and Democrats will make a concerted effort to force Republicans to talk about whatever will make the GOP look bad. Liberals are accustomed to controlling the conversation.

    • #1
  2. Leigh Inactive
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    Aaron Miller:

    Leigh: However, our fellow-citizens are more likely to continue to respect religious liberty when they see that it need not conflict with their other values.

    In other words, they will respect individual liberty if it doesn’t require anything of them. They can’t be expected to practice what they preach: tolerance.

     I wouldn’t put it so harshly; I’m talking here about the public in general, not the Left in particular.  There are a few natural conflicts between America’s foundational values, but the overactive State today distorts society, creates unnecessary conflicts, and undermines our previous mechanisms for dealing with them.  That undermines commitment to those values themselves.

    • #2
  3. user_2505 Contributor
    user_2505
    @GaryMcVey

    I don’t know if Leigh’s health plan solution is politically possible, but I totally agree that even good policies sometimes involve tradeoffs of rights, and the 10% “grain of truth” shouldn’t be ignored even when we’ve committed ourselves to the other 90%. Does that mean squishy compromise? The way some people do it, sure, but it doesn’t have to. 

    Here’s my devil’s-advocate argument: When an employer tells workers that they can’t even bring a gun locked in the trunk into a company parking lot, there’s a lot of constitutional anger–“how dare they?”  Somehow, at those moments we don’t say much about the sacred, inviolate rights of a boss to pursue his moral judgment. So yes, Leigh’s got a point: we should recognize that the other side has something of an argument if you want to counter it. 

    We’re conservatives; we know that not every problem has a win-win-win solution. Wouldn’t that be great? Sometimes life gives you a choice of win-win-lose-win, or lose-win-lose. 

    • #3
  4. user_86050 Inactive
    user_86050
    @KCMulville

    Employers took over healthcare only because it was a backdoor way of offering compensation (and attracting talent) without actually raising wages. Pretty soon, it was the employees’ eagerness to get “benefits” that drove employers to offer more and more goodies. Benefits became an important consideration when applying for a job. 

    In the long run, it’s myopic for employees to turn around and complain about employers “dictating” healthcare choices. It’s like the fish complaining that once the fisherman offered bait, the fisherman now has a duty to feed all the fish. That’s the kind of inverse thinking that only a politician would do. 

    In the old days (i.e., a couple generations ago or so) if you needed a doctor, you had to pay him. Hospitals were charities. It was only when employers started subsidizing medical insurance that medicine became a big-ticket industry — and the costs skyrocketed. 

    So if the American people want to complain about employers “dictating” healthcare choices, let those same people remember that it’s their own damned fault. This is what happens when you chase the bait and bite the hook.

    • #4
  5. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    And employers’ health insurance plans do NOT “dictate” anyone’s health-care choices.  They simply refuse to PAY for certain pharmaceuticals.  Where, oh where, is it written that people should not have to PAY for their own contraception?  Oh…Obamacare mandates that all contraception be provided in all health plans with no copay.  Solution? REPEAL OBAMACARE NOW.

    • #5
  6. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    KC Mulville:

    In the old days (i.e., a couple generations ago or so) if you needed a doctor, you had to pay him. Hospitals were charities.

    There were also some for-profit hospitals, as well as hospitals run by fraternal organizations to offer mutual aid to their members.

    Moreover, fraternal organizations often banded together to provide each other with group health benefits. Your lodge would pay for an on-call doctor, or a visiting nurse, and could also provide you with sick benefits when an illness left you too incapacitated to work.

    • #6
  7. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Good article, incidentally. Thanks, Leigh. I hope it’s promoted.

    • #7
  8. Leigh Inactive
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    KC Mulville:

    Employers took over healthcare only because it was a backdoor way of offering compensation (and attracting talent) without actually raising wages. Pretty soon, it was the employees’ eagerness to get “benefits” that drove employers to offer more and more goodies…

    But this wasn’t a natural, free-market development.  Employers used that backdoor compensation because they weren’t allowed to raise wages (it developed during WWII, if I remember correctly).  And now they get a tax credit that I as an individual don’t get.  That’s a perverse incentive.

    RushBabe49:

    And employers’ health insurance plans do NOT “dictate” anyone’s health-care choices. They simply refuse to PAY for certain pharmaceuticals.

    I tried to make it clear that I’m not disputing this.  Still, the reality is that if you can afford health insurance only as a benefit from your employer, your options are going to be at least somewhat limited by what they offer, and that’s not ideal.

    If we’re going to argue that people should just pay for their own, we should also alleviate the market distortions that make it less practical for them to do so.

    • #8
  9. user_529671 Member
    user_529671
    @

    What I don’t get is any conservative being for a continued tie between employment and healthcare. It’s ridiculous and the ultimate source of almost all progressive healthcare mandates being used against right thinking people.

    Markets only work when the buyer is the buyer. There really is not much of a defense for having employers choose your policy rather than the government. Is there such thing as an anti free market conservative?

    • #9
  10. Leigh Inactive
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    Eric Warren:

    What I don’t get is any conservative being for a continued tie between employment and healthcare. It’s ridiculous and the ultimate source of almost all progressive healthcare mandates being used against right thinking people.

    Markets only work when the buyer is the buyer. There really is not much of a defense for having employers choose your policy rather than the government. Is there such thing as an anti free market conservative?

     Exactly.  Not that I think we should actually ban it, and there’s no reason to disrupt those who are content with their current arrangement.  But offer most people the choice between employer-sponsored insurance and higher take-home with the opportunity to buy your own at comparable prices, and I’d be almost certain that most people who aren’t well-established in a particular job would go for the latter.

    • #10
  11. user_137118 Member
    user_137118
    @DeanMurphy

    I just got an email from Sen. Mark Udall.
    “Not Your Boss’s Business”

    “Coloradans agree that no one should have to ask their boss for a permission slip to access critical health services — birth control or otherwise. But just over two weeks ago, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5 to 4 decision, turned back the clock on decades of progress toward gender equality by deciding to allow the vast majority of employers to refuse to cover contraception as part of employees’ health insurance policies. The Hobby Lobby decision was wrong and misguided. That’s why I’ve written legislation to keep corporations out of our private health care decisions, and I’m proud that the U.S. Senate will vote on my bill as early as tomorrow. Congress must pass my Not My Boss’s Business Act and ensure that women continue to have access to affordable birth control.”

    If your boss won’t pay for your birth control, you don’t get to have any!

    • #11
  12. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Excellent post.

    Liberals are correct that it’s offenisve for an employer to decide what medical procedures are and are not covered, but we have to explain to low-information voters that the reason they’re infereing is because they’re being forced to pay for it.  If we further explain that there’s no reason for emplyers to have to purchase its employees’ healthcare directly, then problem solved.

    This can be a winning issue for us, if we play it smart.  We almost certainly won’t, but we should.

    • #12
  13. user_86050 Inactive
    user_86050
    @KCMulville

    Leigh: And now they get a tax credit that I as an individual don’t get. That’s a perverse incentive.

    Indeed, and it’s politicians who take almost every perverse incentive and twist it even further. One politician will promise voters that justice demands X, despite warnings that such a policy will have negative effects. When the policy goes along a little while, and starts causing problems, other politicians stand up and propose a “remedy.” Their remedy, of course, causes other problems of its own.

    The moment you decide to follow one approach, someone is going to figure out a way to exploit it for their own advantage. That creates a cycle of action/response, but each cycle moves the problem from a new paradigm, and the paradigms shift to the point of forgetting what the original problem was. 

    Everyone knows that Obamacare is a tornado of changing paradigms, with no idea what chaos will it will cause.

    • #13
  14. PsychLynne Inactive
    PsychLynne
    @PsychLynne

    Leigh:

    “You know, I agree with you. I don’t think you should be forced to depend on your employer for health insurance. You should have options if you don’t like what they offer. That’s why I support the Empowering Americans to Make Healthcare Choices Act, which increases your purchasing power for individual insurance. That way, if your employer’s policy has restrictions you don’t want, or if your employer doesn’t offer health insurance, you can say ‘no thanks’ and go choose whatever you want.”

    Of course, this requires the repeal of Obamacare. That’s not a bug, it’s a feature.

     Exactly what we need to be saying, with a sweet charming, caring, concerned smile…snark free!

    • #14
  15. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    Gary McVey:

    Here’s my devil’s-advocate argument: When an employer tells workers that they can’t even bring a gun locked in the trunk into a company parking lot, there’s a lot of constitutional anger–”how dare they?” Somehow, at those moments we don’t say much about the sacred, inviolate rights of a boss to pursue his moral judgment. So yes, Leigh’s got a point: we should recognize that the other side has something of an argument if you want to counter it.

    Not a comparable situation, because there is no cost to the employer for what is in the trunk of my car.  Its the difference between positive and negative rights.  Your example is more akin to the employer refusing to allow an employee to *use* birth control.

    • #15
  16. Nick Stuart Inactive
    Nick Stuart
    @NickStuart

    Regrettably the subject of healthcare funding generally, and free “reproductive healthcare services” is beyond rational debate at this point. “Free Stuff” is a major theological tenet of the Progressive religion (“Progressianity?”), sexual license one of its disciplines, abortion one of its sacraments.

    Obamacare is admirably accomplishing the Left’s purposes, so thoroughly breaking healthcare funding as to quickly raise up a deafening cry for single-payer. Logic, facts, superior proposals for alternatives, dire warnings of the consequences be damned.

    • #16
  17. Leigh Inactive
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    Miffed White Male:

    Gary McVey:

    Here’s my devil’s-advocate argument: When an employer tells workers that they can’t even bring a gun locked in the trunk into a company parking lot, there’s a lot of constitutional anger–”how dare they?” Somehow, at those moments we don’t say much about the sacred, inviolate rights of a boss to pursue his moral judgment. So yes, Leigh’s got a point: we should recognize that the other side has something of an argument if you want to counter it.

    Not a comparable situation, because there is no cost to the employer for what is in the trunk of my car. Its the difference between positive and negative rights. Your example is more akin to the employer refusing to allow an employee to *use* birth control.

    It’s against the employer’s values to have weapons on his property.  We may think that’s nuts, but as Alito rightly points out it’s not the government’s job to determine whether someone’s belief is reasonable or not.  The situations are legally comparable, unless we want to make spending money the criterion on which we base conscience rights.

    • #17
  18. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    Leigh:

     

    It’s against the employer’s values to have weapons on his property. We may think that’s nuts, but as Alito rightly points out it’s not the government’s job to determine whether someone’s belief is reasonable or not. The situations are legally comparable, unless we want to make spending money the criterion on which we base conscience rights.

     But wasn’t “spending  money” exactly the criteria on which the Hobby Lobby case was decided?  The court didn’t rule that Hobby Lobby could forbid an employee from using contraception, it ruled that Hobby Lobby couldn’t be required to pay for it.

    • #18
  19. Leigh Inactive
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    Miffed White Male:

    Leigh:

    It’s against the employer’s values to have weapons on his property. We may think that’s nuts, but as Alito rightly points out it’s not the government’s job to determine whether someone’s belief is reasonable or not. The situations are legally comparable, unless we want to make spending money the criterion on which we base conscience rights.

    But wasn’t “spending money” exactly the criteria on which the Hobby Lobby case was decided? The court didn’t rule that Hobby Lobby could forbid an employee from using contraception, it ruled that Hobby Lobby couldn’t be required to pay for it.

     It ruled that Hobby Lobby couldn’t be forced to do something its owners considered a violation of their beliefs.  Why should you have less say over your other property than your money, if you believe a certain activity violates your beliefs?

    Like you, I see a moral distinction between letting employees bringing something to work and actually paying for it myself.  But that’s a moral distinction, not a legal one; in both cases it’s the employer’s property that is being used in a certain way.

    • #19
  20. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    Leigh:

    It ruled that Hobby Lobby couldn’t be forced to do something its owners considered a violation of their beliefs. Why should you have less say over your other property than your money, if you believe a certain activity violates your beliefs?

    Like you, I see a moral distinction between letting employees bringing something to work and actually paying for it myself. But that’s a moral distinction, not a legal one; in both cases it’s the employer’s property that is being used in a certain way.

    The distinction I would make is that in the example you cite,  a gun locked in the trunk of a car, the employer the employer suffers no harm – and in  fact has no way of even knowing that their “beliefs were being violated”.  So, no harm, no foul.

    • #20
  21. Manfred Arcane Inactive
    Manfred Arcane
    @ManfredArcane

    RushBabe49:

    And employers’ health insurance plans do NOT “dictate” anyone’s health-care choices. They simply refuse to PAY for certain pharmaceuticals. Where, oh where, is it written that people should not have to PAY for their own contraception? Oh…Obamacare mandates that all contraception be provided in all health plans with no copay. Solution? REPEAL OBAMACARE NOW.

     Yes, along these lines there seems to me to be a great, but simple comeback that avoids having to argue on a higher plane than folks ‘stuck on stupid’ can endure.  We conservative men just need to reply: “why do we men have to pay for your contraceptives?  You don’t pay for our Viagra.”  Seriously.
    This should derail the Dem’s freight train-of-thought long enough for you then to explain how objectionable abortifacients are to religious folks.  But you have to administer an ice cold constitutional to rabid Dems first – to clear the fumes from their brains – before you can talk intelligently to them from the religious perspective.

    • #21
  22. Leigh Inactive
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    Miffed White Male:

    Leigh:

    It ruled that Hobby Lobby couldn’t be forced to do something its owners considered a violation of their beliefs. Why should you have less say over your other property than your money, if you believe a certain activity violates your beliefs?

    Like you, I see a moral distinction between letting employees bringing something to work and actually paying for it myself. But that’s a moral distinction, not a legal one; in both cases it’s the employer’s property that is being used in a certain way.

    The distinction I would make is that in the example you cite, a gun locked in the trunk of a car, the employer suffers no harm – and in fact has no way of even knowing that their “beliefs were being violated”. So, no harm, no foul.

     I agree with your distinction.  The employer doesn’t.  We could prove convincingly to 99% of the population that he’s wrong, but the courts have no authority to decide that.  His parking lot is his property, and he gets to decide.

    • #22
  23. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    Leigh:

    Miffed White Male:

    Leigh:

    The distinction I would make is that in the example you cite, a gun locked in the trunk of a car, the employer suffers no harm – and in fact has no way of even knowing that their “beliefs were being violated”. So, no harm, no foul.

    I agree with your distinction. The employer doesn’t. We could prove convincingly to 99% of the population that he’s wrong, but the courts have no authority to decide that. His parking lot is his property, and he gets to decide.

    Disagree.  When two rights are in conflict, there’s a balancing test.  In the case of Hobby Lobby, the employee’s right to contraception  imposes a substantive burden on the employer, but the employer is not preventing the employee from exercising that right on their own.

    In your example of the gun locked in the trunk, no such balance exists.  The employee’s right to have the gun in their car imposes no substantial burden on the employer, and there is also no alternative exercise available to the employee.

    • #23
  24. user_2505 Contributor
    user_2505
    @GaryMcVey

    Miffed, no analogy is perfect, but I’ll defend the basics of this one because I think you’re missing Leigh’s point. If one of Hobby Lobby’s employees takes an abortion drug, “Mr. Lobby” doesn’t suffer any direct moral harm, the employee is the subject. 

    Oh, he’s stuck paying for it? He’s paying for the parking lot, too. Hey, if an employee wants a gun, they can park somewhere else. Believe me, Bloomberg feels as strongly about the guns as you feel about the abortifacients. 

    If you find the parking lot example troubling, you’re making Leigh’s point for her. Plenty of people who aren’t especially pro-abortion seem to find the Hobby Lobby decision less than great for the same reasons. Leigh’s looking for a way to square that circle. Good for her. We need the votes.

    • #24
  25. user_2505 Contributor
    user_2505
    @GaryMcVey

    Miffed, I just now saw your post, “Goodbye, My Friend”. I don’t mean to get into a hot argument with you on a day like this. I’m sorry for your loss.

    • #25
  26. Goldgeller Member
    Goldgeller
    @Goldgeller

    Good post Leigh.  I don’t entirely agree with this statement though– “a kernel of truth in the feminist response, something conservatives entirely agree with: an employer’s beliefs shouldn’t restrict a woman’s healthcare options.”
    In an unfree market, or a very one-sided market, I’d agree with you. But in a relatively free market like we have here, I disagree. We sign contracts because we think we’ll benefit from them (on balance). Don’t like Hobby Lobby? Then leave. If those 4 drugs are that important. The employer didn’t “decide”– the employee and the employer “agreed.” 

    Also, the Hobby Lobby thing was just so overblown if what people were talking about is “contraception.” If one asks their potential employer to cover elective abortions, whether they will or will not should be disclosed, as should all forms of compensation– and then (prospective) employee and employer will agree or not. There are some tricky situations where some things just aren’t covered. But again, you either take the insurance or you don’t. In many cases. I think more employees should be able to turn their insurance into wages to avoid these situations.

    • #26
  27. Leigh Inactive
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    Goldgeller:

    Good post Leigh. I don’t entirely agree with this statement though– “a kernel of truth in the feminist response, something conservatives entirely agree with: an employer’s beliefs shouldn’t restrict a woman’s healthcare options.” In an unfree market, or a very one-sided market, I’d agree with you. But in a relatively free market like we have here, I disagree…

    … But again, you either take the insurance or you don’t. In many cases. I think more employees should be able to turn their insurance into wages to avoid these situations.

    It’s a very small kernel, I’ll grant.  But many of these people can’t afford insurance except through their employer.  The employer can’t just turn it into wages, because they’d lose the tax credit.  Making that same credit available to individuals would change that.

    There are probably other ways to go about it, but on principle conservatives should oppose government policies that deliberately promote (let alone mandate) the link between employment and healthcare.  It’s unhealthy for many reasons.  The Hobby Lobby hysteria just offers an opportunity when doing so would also conveniently undermine a prime leftist talking point.

    • #27
  28. Goldgeller Member
    Goldgeller
    @Goldgeller

    Leigh:

    It’s a very small kernel, I’ll grant. But many of these people can’t afford insurance except through their employer. The employer can’t just turn it into wages, because they’d lose the tax credit. Making that same credit available to individuals would change that. …

    I added the bold but that seems to be the best idea. Increase the tax exemptions for healthcare expenditures or even allow a portion of wages to be set aside tax emempt for healthcare. Opting out of health-plans gave me a “credit” which went to wages but was then taxed. So people keep the health benefit. Changing that as you suggested would be something to at least think about.

    That wasn’t suggested by critics though. The “Not My Boss’ Business” cry expands the government. It’s another take over. Forget the religious component. It’s the government back-dooring more regulation. This goes back to the ACA thing– can the government make you eat your broccoli? The answer is yes. “Pay for this, that and the other.” That’s what the Hobby Lobby thing is about and that’s what I reject.

    • #28
  29. Leigh Inactive
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    Goldgeller:

    I added the bold but that seems to be the best idea. Increase the tax exemptions for healthcare expenditures or even allow a portion of wages to be set aside tax emempt for healthcare. Opting out of health-plans gave me a “credit” which went to wages but was then taxed. So people keep the health benefit. Changing that as you suggested would be something to at least think about.

    That wasn’t suggested by critics though. The “Not My Boss’ Business” cry expands the government. It’s another take over. Forget the religious component. It’s the government back-dooring more regulation. This goes back to the ACA thing– can the government make you eat your broccoli? The answer is yes. “Pay for this, that and the other.” That’s what the Hobby Lobby thing is about and that’s what I reject.

     I think we agree.

    The conservative answer to “not my boss’s business” is “stop asking your boss to pay for it.”  I’m just proposing we make that an easier option.  Especially since that’s really better anyway.

    • #29
  30. Lady Randolph Inactive
    Lady Randolph
    @LadyRandolph

    It’s hard for me to talk about rational political solutions in this situation, because I get so angry over the Left’s hysterical lie-mongering. When they say “affordable” birth control, they mean free. When they say “women’s rights,” they mean having sex without worrying about babies. When they say “it’s my choice,” they mean I’m a selfish little girl who can’t own up to my decisions. When they say . . . well, you know.

    Is life really all about sex for these people?!

    Sometimes it makes me downright embarrassed to be female, and be associated with such nitwits by default.

    • #30

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