Watch out, folks, I’m about to get political. I’m about to talk about the Blunt Amendment.
Actually, scratch that. While I am going to talk about a subject that has been a political firestorm over the past several weeks on both the campaign trail and on Capitol Hill, I’m trying to take the politics out of it. Instead, I’m going to examine the Blunt Amendment from a personal finance perspective, and attempt to illustrate why it’s a bad idea for your family’s finances as well as my own.
This isn’t a debate between left and right, liberal and conservative, Democrat or Republican: this is a debate over skyrocketing healthcare costs and your family’s bottom line.
What Is The Blunt Amendment?
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past two months, you’ve no doubt heard about the federal government’s fight with religious institutions – namely, the Catholic Church – over healthcare requirements. The Obama Administration wants religious employers to provide their workers with health insurance plans that include access to free birth control; these institutions say doing so violates their moral beliefs against birth control.
(An important side note: I am a practicing Catholic, lest you think I’m lashing out against the Church. I’m not. As I stated in my introduction, I’m looking at this as a question of personal finance, not of politics.)
That’s where the Blunt Amendment came in. Introduced by Republican Senator Roy Blunt from Missouri, the aptly-named Blunt Amendment gives your employer – including non-religious entities – the ability to decide what your healthcare plan will and will not include based on your employer’s personal convictions. Here’s a section of the amendment:
“Nothing in this title (or any amendment made by this title) shall be construed to require an individual or institutional health care provider, or authorize a health plan to require a provider, to provide, participate in, or refer for a specific item or service contrary to the provider’s religious beliefs or moral convictions.”
Last week, the Senate – in a largely partisan vote – narrowly rejected the Blunt Amendment. But Republican leaders vowed to bring the issue back to the table as soon as they secure enough votes to secure its passage.
What could that mean for you? Here are four examples:
AIDS (and treatment of other STDs)
Your employer could use the moral clause included in the Blunt Amendment to deny treatment for AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. How? Although the days of AIDS being stereotypically labeled a disease of homosexuals and drug users are (hopefully) long gone, the disease is still mainly transmitted through unsafe sex. Your employer could construe this in any number of ways, indirectly legislating your sexual activity.
What if your employer is morally against smoking? According to the Blunt Amendment, your company may be able to deny you coverage for the treatment of smoking-related diseases like lung cancer, COPD, and emphysema. There’s a lot of grey area here, since these conditions aren’t always connected to smoking in the first place. Case in point? According to 2010 statistics, 20 percent of women and 10 percent of men with lung cancer are non-smokers; plus, there’s no way to distinguish whether a patient’s lung cancer was caused by smoking, environmental conditions, genetics, or simply a bad twist of fate.
If your employer claims to be morally against obesity, treatment for the condition – as well as secondary conditions linked to obesity, like type 2 diabetes – could be axed out of your company healthcare plan. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, reports that more than one-third of American adults are not just overweight, but clinically obese. After all, gluttony – which many individuals claim is the root cause for all cases of obesity – is one of the seven deadly sins.
Of course, this whole debate over healthcare and moral issues began with the fight over mandating free birth control. But I’m trying to avoid playing the political card here, so let’s look at a much less controversial aspect of women’s health that could be affected by the passage of the Blunt Amendment: hysterectomies. When a woman has a hysterectomy, she is rendered infertile. Does that mean an organization like the Catholic Church, which is against birth control, would also be against hysterectomies?
The Take Away
It may seem like a leap to say that if the Catholic Church is against contraception in the form of a daily pill or a weekly patch that it may also morally object to a hysterectomy on religious grounds as well. But, as with any attempt to legislate morality, it’s a slippery slope. I’m not saying any of the situations outlined above would happen if the Blunt Amendment were to become law, but the fact is, they could.
The Blunt Amendment was originally crafted to protect religious freedom – a tenet on which the United States was founded nearly two and a half centuries ago. I’m all for protecting this inherent right, but not at the literal cost of burdening Americans with soaring healthcare costs because of a hazy definition of “moral convictions.”
Reader: What do you think about the Blunt Amendment, not from a political point of view, but from a personal finance perspective? Will it help or hinder our nation?