Health care and religion

It is impossible for every company to have coverage according to its owner's religion

The purpose of President Obama’s health care reform is to expand medical insurance coverage to all Americans, no matter where they work. Therefore, there is no reason why the quality and amount of coverage employees receive should be negatively impacted by the religious beliefs of their employers.

The Obama administration last Friday changed the implementation of the health care law for the third time. It is trying to avoid having organizations with some religious affiliation—like hospitals, universities and social services agencies—be mandated to cover birth control. This decision expands the number of exemptions that were already created for churches and other religious institutions.

However, this is not enough for the critics of this law that drastically expands employer-provided insurance coverage to a large majority of Americans. There are some who are demanding similar exemptions for companies that, while secular, have owners whose religious beliefs oppose covering contraceptives.

We think it is excessive and inadequate for basic and lawful health care coverage to depend on the religious faith of each boss or employer. First, exemptions for specific beliefs cannot be imposed upon labor laws when the U.S. is made up of a melting pot of religions. Second, there are beliefs, for example, that forbid blood transfusions or organ transplants; it would be absurd for health care benefits to exclude the employees of a company from that coverage because the company’s owner considers them religiously undesirable.

The health care reform already overcame the main legal obstacles, although political criticism dressed up as religious incompatibility is ongoing. It is important for the White House to continue its course of being sensitive to the views of religions, all while keeping the basic principle of expanding medical insurance coverage.