Obamacare to Guarantee Sterilizations

A new set of recommendations issued by a committee of experts on behalf of the Department of Health and Humans Services, suggests that all birth control practices be included into the program at no additional cost.

by N.C. Aizenman
Washington Post
July 20, 2011

Virtually all health insurance plans could soon be required to offer female patients free coverage of prescription birth control, breast-pump rentals, counseling for domestic violence, and annual wellness exams and HIV tests as a result of recommendations released Tuesday by an independent advisory panel of health experts.

The health-care law adopted last year directed the Obama administration to draw up a list of preventive services for women that all new health plans must cover without deductibles or co-payments. While the guidelines suggested Tuesday by a committee of the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine are not binding, the panel conducted its year-long review at the request of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

In a statement, Sebelius praised the committee’s work as “historic” and “based on science and existing literature.”

“We are reviewing the report closely and will release the department’s recommendations . . . very soon,” she added.

Although generally expected, the committee’s decision to put “the full range” of Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptives and sterilization procedures on its proposed list ignited immediate controversy.

Jeanne Monahan, director of the Center for Human Dignity at the socially conservative Family Research Council, said that many Americans may object to birth control on religious grounds. “They should not be forced to have to pay into insurance plans that violate their consciences. Their conscience rights should be protected,” she said.

Just as troubling, said Mona­han, was the inclusion of emergency contraceptives such as the so-called morning-after pill sold as Plan B and the more recently approved drug sold as Ella. Both primarily work by inhibiting ovaries from releasing eggs. But antiabortion advocates argue that there is evidence the drugs can also prevent an already-fertilized egg from implanting in the womb, which they consider equivalent to abortion.

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1,372 Businesses Exempted from Obamacare

If Obamacare is so great, why do so many people want to get out from under it?

By Michael Barone
The Examiner
May 25, 2011

Question: What do the following have in common? Eckert Cold Storage Co., Kerly Homes of Yuma, Classic Party Rentals, West Coast Turf Inc., Ellenbecker Investment Group Inc., Only in San Francisco, Hotel Nikko, International Pacific Halibut Commission, City of Puyallup, Local 485 Health and Welfare Fund, Chicago Plastering Institute Health & Welfare Fund, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee, Teamsters Local 522 Fund Welfare Fund Roofers Division, StayWell Saipan Basic Plan, CIGNA, Caribbean Workers’ Voluntary Employees’ Beneficiary Health and Welfare Plan.

Health and Human Services Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius.

Answer: They are all among the 1,372 businesses, state and local governments, labor unions and insurers, covering 3,095,593 individuals or families, that have been granted a waiver from Obamacare by Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius.

All of which raises another question: If Obamacare is so great, why do so many people want to get out from under it?

More specifically, why are more than half of those 3,095,593 in plans run by labor unions, which were among Obamacare’s biggest political supporters? Union members are only 12 percent of all employees but have gotten 50.3 percent of Obamacare waivers.

Just in April, Sebelius granted 38 waivers to restaurants, nightclubs, spas and hotels in former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco congressional district. Pelosi’s office said she had nothing to do with it.

On its website HHS pledges that the waiver process will be transparent. But it doesn’t list those whose requests for waivers have been denied.

It does say that requests are “reviewed on a case by case basis by Department officials who look at a series of factors including” — and then lists two factors. And it refers you to another website that says that “several factors . . . may be considered” — and then lists six factors.

What other factors may be considered? Political contributions or connections? (Unions contributed $400 million to Democrats in the 2008 campaign cycle.) The websites don’t say.

In his new book “The Origins of Political Order,” Francis Fukuyama identifies the chief building blocks of liberal democracy as a strong central state, a society strong enough to hold the state accountable and — equally crucial — the rule of law.

One basic principle of the rule of law is that laws apply to everybody. If the sign says “No Parking,” you’re not supposed to park there even if you’re a pal of the alderman.

Another principle of the rule of law is that government can’t make up new rules to help its cronies and hurt its adversaries except through due process, such as getting a legislature to pass a new law.

The Obamacare waiver process appears to violate that first rule. Two other recent Obama administration actions appear to violate the second.

One example is the National Labor Relations Board general counsel’s action to prevent Boeing from building a $2 billion assembly plant for the 787 Dreamliner in South Carolina, which has a right-to-work law barring compulsory union membership. The NLRB says Boeing has to assemble the planes in non-right-to-work Washington state.

“I don’t agree,” says William Gould IV, NLRB chairman during the Clinton years. “The Boeing case is unprecedented.”

The other example is the Internal Revenue Service’s attempt to levy a gift tax on donors to certain 501(c)(4) organizations that just happen to have spent money to elect Republicans.

A gift tax is normally assessed on transfers to children and other heirs that are designed to avoid estate taxes. It has been applied to political donations “rarely, if ever,” according to New York Times reporter Stephanie Strom.

“The timing of the agency’s moves, as the 2012 election cycle gets under way,” continues Strom, “is prompting some tax law and campaign finance experts to question whether the IRS could be sending a signal in an effort to curtail big donations.”

In a Univision radio interview during the 2010 election cycle, Barack Obama urged Latinos not “to sit out the election instead of saying, ‘We’re going to punish our enemies and we’re going to reward our friends who stand with us on issues that are important to us.’ ”

Punishing enemies and rewarding friends — politics Chicago style — seems to be the unifying principle that helps explain the Obamacare waivers, the NLRB action against Boeing and the IRS’ gift-tax assault on 501(c)(4) donors.

They look like examples of crony capitalism, bailout favoritism and gangster government.

One thing they don’t look like is the rule of law.