It seems that three years after the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) the law not only remains a flash point of controversy, but in fact is becoming even more unpopular.
For many, this law is not unpopular because it will adversely affect the way they obtain and utilize health insurance, but because the law attacks the very essence of what it means to be an American. The law does this through its onerous and, to many, unconstitutional mandates. Much has been written about the law’s individual mandate which requires everyone to purchase insurance. Even though the Supreme Court ruled that this mandate could stand after defining it as a tax, many still feel it is an attack on personal choice and liberty. Even more dangerous however, is the law’s mandate that every company that offers health insurance ensure that their insurance plans offer free contraception.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued this mandate under the authority given them by the ACA. That authority is vast, and in essence the law gives the HHS Secretary the power to define a minimum standard for insurance and then force all American companies to offer at least that minimum level of coverage. The Secretary can define all aspects of insurance plans and can include items for coverage as they see fit. Once those decisions have been made, the only recourse companies have is to make their case to the public or begin a costly legal battle against the federal government.
Current HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is arguably the most powerful player in Washington because she and she alone was the power to define a company’s responsibility vis-a-vis health insurance and to define an individual’s insurance options. Her most controversial decision was to require that all companies provide health insurance that covers all forms of contraception, including abortion-inducing drugs and sterilization. For millions of Americans this was a bridge too far because it went beyond health and directly attacked people of faith and people of conscious. It was an attack on one of the most sacred pillars of American democracy; religious freedom.
It is an attack on religious freedom because it requires religious-based institutions and company owned by people of faith the deliberately turn their back on their long held beliefs and betray their principles. For those who are not religious but who belief in the sanctity of the United States Constitution and its tenets of limited government, this mandate was a triumph of statists in the US government who believe in the power of the state over the rights of the people. There is no better example of the statist belief in the supremacy of the government and its bureaucracy to define what is in the best interest of the individual than this mandate.
Immediately after the announcement of the HHS Mandate, several religious institutions that offer health insurance to their employees and many businesses owned by people of faith filed suit in federal court to challenge the HHS’ decision. These cases are working their way through the federal courts and most likely will land at the Supreme Court in the near future. Although the cases will most likely be seen through the prism of religious liberty and how far the federal government can encroach on that liberty, they should also be viewed in the broader context of whether this nation will continue to be one where individuals can make choices free from government interference or mandate or whether the country will continue down the path to a statist future. Only time and the courts will answer the question.