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Obama's shell game

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Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Churches, their nonprofit affiliates and religiously principled for-profit business owners should stand firm against the Obama administration's latest “compromise” on contraception and employee health insurance.

Supposedly offering employers a way to avoid paying for contraception while guaranteeing it to workers without out-of-pocket cost, the White House now says health plans can exclude such coverage if workers are directed to separate policies covering contraception. But only nonprofit employers would be able to do so — and there would be nothing genuinely “free” about it.

The federal government would credit insurers for bearing those separate policies' upfront costs by reducing a user fee they must pay to do business through the health-insurance exchange it will begin operating in 2014. But health-insurance ratepayers and taxpayers ultimately will bear the additional costs.

This “compromise” is a shyster's shell game. It does nothing for for-profit employers. Government chooses which employers enjoy First Amendment protection and which don't. It raises serious questions about its constitutionality. And in practical terms, it's more an accounting gimmick than a real exception for nonprofit employers.

Still gutting religious liberty and freedom of conscience, this “compromise,” compared to previous Obama administration attempts to mollify opponents regarding contraception, is a bogus distinction without a difference. Thus, those opponents have every reason to keep fighting.

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