Free Market Health Insurance Provides the Best Vehicle for Religious Freedom

In recent weeks, Obamacare’s contraception mandate and its conflict with religious liberty has been the center of debate. In late January, Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius released a statement indicating that rather than expanding religious exemption from the mandate, she was instead going to provide religious institutions more time to comply with the mandate.

Rush Limbaugh referenced a post at Ricochet yesterday on his show as part of his discussion on DHHS’s contraception mandate and how the Catholic Church has reacted. The author, Paul A. Rahe, notes how the Catholic Church embraced Franklin D. Roosevelt administration’s introduction of Social Security. Rahe suggests that the indirect consequences of FDR’s Social Security had a domino effect that impacted Catholics’ (and all Americans’ in general) view of family roles in caring for elderly parents and subsequently their view of sex and contraception. Additionally, he suggests that acceptance of FDR’s policies also generated a sentiment by some in the faith community that “public provision is akin to charity”.

Beyond the indirect effects that FDR’s policies had on the faith community, his policies had direct impact on health insurance mandates as it relates to employers. Sally Pipes at the Pacific Research Institute notes:

During World War II, wage controls prevented employers from rewarding workers with salary hikes and enticing new workers with cash. So companies started offering health care benefits as a way around the law.

Roosevelt’s wage controls caused employers to seek new ways for business to attract qualified employees, and now, this has become the norm.

Pipes goes on to note that this norm has subsequently has made it harder for people to leave their jobs for fear of losing their insurance, made wages lower, and stifled business creation. Health insurance has become tied to employment rather than to the free market. President Obama’s health care reform approach and its numerous, burdensome regulations–be it on contraception or health insurance premium requirements–have only provided a means to incrementally lead the nation towards total government run healthcare. What the Obama administration has done to insurers and employers is akin to tying a runner’s shoelaces together and telling her to run a marathon.

The free market provides an alternative to both the far reaching effects of the Roosevelt administration and the recent effects of the Obama administration. A free market approach to health care–as opposed to government or employer related approach– means that individuals can purchase the health care that is most appropriate for themselves and their families. The Heritage Foundationrecommends that instead of employer related tax exclusions for health care, the federal government should provide tax credits for individuals and families according to their income and the number of children they have. They also suggest that health insurance be able to be purchased across state lines, providing even greater room for competition between insurers and subsequently lower costs. This would then allow each individual or family to purchase the health care plan that is most suited for their needs and budget.

Beyond the economic benefits, a free market based health care system provides the best vehicle for religious liberty. When health insurance is detached from employment, it means that employers–be they religious institutions or religious business owners– have no requirement to violate their conscience by providing insurance that covers contraception and abortion causing drugs.

The same is true for individual health care consumers and insurance companies themselves. Individual health care consumers would have the option to purchase plans from insurers that either do or do not cover contraceptives. While individuals opposed to contraception would not desire contraception for themselves anyway, choosing a plan that does not cover contraception means the money they used to purchase health insurance does not have the potential to “cross subsidize” contraception or abortion causing drugs.

“Cross subsidization” occurs when insurance premiums are pooled by the insurer and then dispersed to pay medical bills for those they insure, meaning that the money one pays in insurance premiums beyond what care they need may ultimately cover another individual’s care . Market based healthcare also provides health insurers with the freedom to abide by their conscience in what they will cover. Insurers who oppose contraceptives would not be obligated to provide coverage, and those who approve contraceptives would be free to do so. There is a market for both, and it would provide employers, individuals, and insurers the freedom to exercise their religious liberty.

The Roosevelt and Obama administrations have been all about control and government expansion. This is why Barack Obama once referred to the Constitution as a “charter of negative liberties”–because it constrained the “liberty” of the government. However, the positive liberties extended by our Bill of Rights includes first the freedom of religion. The free market allows consumers the choice to exercise that freedom. The Constitution’s “pro choice” provision is one that even we pro-lifers can get behind.


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