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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

President Prevaricated: Govt. Agency Reveals that Your Tax Dollars Do Fund Abortion in Obamacare

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has unraveled the deception used to pass and promote Obamacare--by revealing that the new law does, as pro-life advocates have insisted, channel our tax dollars to abortion.
The GAO report gets into the weeds of the accounting schemes that the administration has used to obfuscate this fact, but here are the topline takeaway messages from this revelation:
  1. President Obama misled Congress and the American people. As one of many examples of where President Obama and Democratic leaders promised the American people that ObamaCare would not fund abortions, on September 9, 2009, President Obama told the Joint Session of Congress on Health Care: “And one more misunderstanding I want to clear up -- under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions, and federal conscience laws will remain in place.”
  2. An independent government agency finally has proved what pro-life advocates have insisted: that Obamacare is channeling our tax dollars to abortion.
  3. The administration is not even bothering to enforce its own accounting gimmick to cover up taxpayer funding of abortion.

Take Action: Use this easy form to tell your legislators to pass the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.

Colleagues in Congress have provided the information below:
GAO Report demonstrates that Obamacare taxpayer subsidies are going to insurance coverage that includes abortion….despite claims to the contrary. 
No matter where you live, your federal taxpayer dollars are subsidizing plans in other states that include abortion.  If the longstanding prohibition on abortion funding, known as the Hyde amendment, had been applied to the ACA, there would be no taxpayer funding for plans that include abortion.
The GAO identified 1036 Plans that cover abortion on demand.
In California, where an estimated 1.25 million people are receiving taxpayer subsidies[i] for Obamacare plans, 86 out of 90 plans include abortion on demand. 
95% to 100% plans in 8 states include abortion on demand. 

·         Every plan in New Jersey, Connecticut, Vermont, Rhode Island and Hawaii
·         Massachusetts—98% (109 out 111)
·         New  York—95% (405 out of 426)
·         California—96% (86 out of 90)
According to the CBO’s April 2014 estimates, between 2015 and 2024 ACA premium subsidies will cost $855 billion. ($726 billion in direct spending and $129 billion in reductions in revenues.)[ii]
GAO interviewed 18 insurance issuers.  NONE had collected the abortion surcharge payment separately—even though the author of this arrangement, Senator Ben Nelson said: “…the insurance company must bill you separately, and you must pay separately from your own personal funds–perhaps a credit card transaction, your separate personal check, or automatic withdrawal from your bank account– for that abortion coverage. Now, let me say that again. You have to write two checks: one for the basic policy and one for the additional coverage for abortion....”[iii]
Background: Instead of extending the Hyde amendment, Obamacare constructed an accounting gimmick to get around the Hyde amendment. Proponents of the gimmick claimed that when a consumer selects a plan that covers abortion, the abortions would be paid for using funds collected from the plan purchaser through a separate abortion surcharge. This separate payment approach was contemporaneously acknowledged by NARAL, Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights.[iv]
The GAO found that the administration reinterpreted this billing arrangement.  Instead of separate payments, they told issuers they could simply itemize the abortion surcharge on the consumer’s bill. NONE of the 18 issuers interviewed itemized an abortion surcharge.  (One company stated bills indicate there is a $1 fee for “coverage of services for which member subsidies may not be used.” The rest were silent regarding the surcharge.) 


THREE TIMES Former Secretary Sebelius was asked about abortion coverage transparency in Congressional hearings, and each time she refused to supply the answer.[v]  It took a GAO investigation to get a straight answer. 
The report confirms that the information about abortion coverage is not uniformly available to consumers.  When consumers are shopping for a plan there is no reliable consistent way to determine whether abortion is covered.  According to the GAO of the 18 issuers interviewed:
·         11 issuers indicated that consumers shopping for plans do not have access to such information, and some of the 11 indicated consumers would need to call their issuer directly to determine whether the plan includes abortion coverage
·         6 issuers indicated they made abortion coverage information available in some fashion prior to enrollment
·         1 issuer did not respond to GAO’s request for information
Consumers should not have to search multiple websites and make time consuming phone calls to get this simple information.
The pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute and the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute agree there is a lack of transparency.[vi]


The information in this report only applies to 2014 plans.  It does not answer questions for the consumers that will shop in the 2015 Open Season. 
For 2015, the administration needs to ensure that plans clearly and prominently disclose abortion coverage, and that the abortion surcharge is prominently disclosed whenever the price of a plan is advertised. 
The Senate should pass and the President should sign H.R. 7, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act”[vii] (Rep. Chris Smith, R-NJ) which would stop taxpayer funding for abortion and plans that include abortion in all federal programs including the Affordable Care Act. The House passed H.R. 7 by a vote of 227-188[viii] on January 28, 2014.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Reflections on 9/11, national and personal

The commentary below was published just after 911. I wrote the personal reflection that follows below in 2006 on the five-year anniversary of 911. Thought it might be of interest today as we remember the fallen and the heroes.
Remembrances left at Pentagon 2001

An American foundation

Published in the Washington Times, September 13, 2001
by Jonathan Imbody
The atrocities of September 11 left many Americans wondering how terrorists could strike at the heart of our nation's power. In fact, they did not--and never can.
The heart of our nation's power has never been our military and financial might but our commitment to a civilization based upon liberty and love. Reaffirming these highest values--even more so than rebuilding our physical security--now poses the greatest test of our nation's mettle.
As we commence this task, let us take inspiration from the selfless firefighters and paramedics who died trying to save strangers trapped in the World Trade Center. Let us follow the example of servant-leaders like Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who joined the many service men and women at the Pentagon tending to the wounded. Let us imitate the quiet love shown by hundreds of citizens who stood in line to donate blood to aid their suffering neighbors. This is a nation of citizens who respond with love in action to the question, "Who is my neighbor?"
Such acts of selflessness, service and love will carry us through extremely difficult days ahead. And our reaffirmation of these values will strengthen an American foundation that can never be shaken.


Personal reflection on 911

At this time five years ago, I was sitting in my home office, as I am now. Our daughter Bethany had called from work with the news about the attacks on the World Trade Center. As I watched that New York scene on TV, I felt and heard a thud. That thud turned out to be a plane crashing into the Pentagon, a few miles from our home.
Bethany had left the Pentagon on her morning commute into Washington an hour and a half before the plane hit. A series of cell phone calls to her followed, as the news unraveled about the terrorist attacks and rumors swirled about bombs exploding and fires in DC. We didn’t know what target would be next, and with Bethany’s office located in the Watergate and directly across from the Saudi embassy, her security was uppermost in our minds. I loaded a bike and a moped into our van and headed toward the city to get her out—a daunting challenge with much of DC evacuating outward. We eventually met up in Vienna, VA and I brought Bethany home safely.
But for thousands of Americans, of course, the news was much worse.
Our region here in DC remained in a state of siege for weeks to come. We fell asleep to the sound of fighter jets and awoke to machine-gun-touting soldiers in areas where we used to walk unconcerned.
Today we mourn the loss from that day of rescue workers, military personnel and innocent citizens. Five years after the attacks, we live in relative peace and apparent security, though our soldiers fight and give their lives on our behalf overseas. The war against terror rages on, even as we go about our daily business.
It occurs to me that our war on terror is a picture of spiritual warfare. A crisis, an attack occurs in our lives, and we earnestly seek God for intervention and protection. As He does so, and as we regain peace and security, it is easy to forget that spiritual warfare still, in fact, rages and roars all around us:
Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Obamacare data: Individuals being shoved into government-subsidized insurance or losing insurance altogether

Conservative skeptics eschew the theoretical idealism of liberalism for a simple reason: it doesn't work in real life.
Such is certainly the case with Obamacare. The data reveals that in many cases it actually leads employers to drop healthcare coverage for employees, or to reduce employees' hours to avoid the healthcare insurance mandate. An analysis of Obamacare enrollment data by Heritage experts  and  reveals that the failure to take into account basic market forces doomed Obamacare from the beginning:
"[A]lmost all the gains in individual coverage through the Obamacare exchanges were offset by reduced enrollment in employer-sponsored group coverage."
"[T]he biggest change in the private market during the six-month period was not the expansion in individual-market coverage, but the decline in fully insured employer group coverage. While enrollment in fully insured employer group coverage modestly increased—by just over 175,000 individuals—in Q4 2013, it dropped by nearly 4.2 million individuals in Q1 2014. The result was a net enrollment decrease of 4 million individuals for the combined six-month period.
In other words, Obamacare is sucking millions of employees out of their employer-provided healthcare plans. What happens then? Authors Haislmaier and Gonshorowski explain:
"The remaining 43 percent of the reduction can only be explained by employers’ discontinuing coverage for some or all of their workers or, in some cases, individuals losing access to such coverage due to employment changes. While it is not possible to determine the subsequent coverage status of individuals who lost group coverage, there are four possibilities: (1) some obtained replacement individual-market coverage (either on or off the exchanges); (2) some enrolled in Medicaid; (3) some enrolled in other coverage for which they are eligible (such as a plan offered by their new employer, a spouse’s plan, a parent’s policy, or Medicare); or (4) some became uninsured."
Bottom line result: Vast numbers of individuals either being shoved into government-subsidized insurance or losing insurance altogether. More power to the State, higher taxes to pay to prop up the State, less efficiency and less individual freedom. That formula may fit liberal theory, but as history has shown (Rome, communism, modern Europe), it is unsustainable in the long term.

Monday, July 28, 2014

White House contraceptives "accommodation" is a vaporous sleight of hand

A Washington Times news article, "White House: More changes to contraception mandate coming" quotes a White House official spinning the administration's latest feigned "accommodation" of the Obamacare contraceptives and sterilization mandate:
"In light of the Supreme Court order regarding Wheaton College, the departments intend to augment their regulations to provide an alternative way for objecting nonprofit religious organizations to provide notification, while ensuring that enrollees in plans of such organizations receive separate coverage of contraceptive services without cost sharing."
Translation: "It's politically embarrassing for the Obama administration to promote 'diversity' and 'tolerance' and then lose religious freedom lawsuits because we don't tolerate views that diverge from our abortion ideology. So we will wave our magic Bureaucratic Wand and change the paperwork that conscientious objectors must use to cooperate with the contraceptives coercion plan they find morally abhorrent. This vaporous sleight of hand will create the illusion that we care about religious freedom, when in fact we fully plan to keep forcing the Little Sisters of the Poor--and anyone else who clings to their religion--to submit to our scheme to give our political base all the abortion-related stuff they want for free."

Here's a solution that doesn't require either coercion or legerdemain: Rather than diverting health resources to end pregnancies and punish people of faith, why not focus instead on preventing and treating actual diseases, providing needy patients with hard-to-get but desperately needed lifesaving drugs and treatments?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Policy Potpourri Report

After the Supreme Court victory in the Hobby Lobby religious freedom case provided a brief and welcome respite from playing defense with this administration and its abortion-advocating allies in the Senate, we're back to opposing bad stuff. Here's a sampling of the political mischief going on in the nation's capital:
  • The Blumenthal "abortion omnibus bill," S. 1696: The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the bill. For more, see colleague Chuck Donovan's Charlotte Lozier Institute  paper on the bill here and Americans United for Life's resource here.
  • The Murray-Udall Anti-Religious Liberty Bill: The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops oppose the Murray-Udall bill responding to the Supreme Court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby.  Read about their concerns here. Senator Orrin Hatch’s comments against the bill are here, and Senator Roy Blunt’s comments are here.
  • The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has scheduled a mark-up Tuesday, July 22 on the measure, which is opposed many pro-family, prolife groups.
On a somewhat more positive note, although viewed against the backdrop of tragic abortions, comes news of research progress regarding Down Syndrome. Tragically, developing babies with Down Syndrome seldom see the light of day in the USA. Mark Bradford of the Jerome Lejeune Foundation has authored a Charlotte Lozier Institute paper on research regarding Down Syndrome, abortion rates and encouraging research; read it here

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Court counters conscience assaults while administration trains its guns on nuns

A Supreme Court ruling provides a harbor of protection that will help the faith community weather the remaining years of an administration apparently bent on waging an aggressive campaign against religious freedom.
The Court's ruling in a consolidated pair of religious freedom cases involving family-owned businesses, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, upheld the rights of conscientious objectors to opt out of a federal mandate that employers must provide insurance coverage of virtually all contraceptives and sterilization surgeries.
Under the sweeping authority accorded the bureaucracy by Obamacare, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has rigidly imposed the mandate on religious objectors. The Obama administration, though meek and muddled when faced with foreign tyrants and terrorists, has trained its guns aggressively on domestic conscientious objectors to abortion, especially targeting religious conservatives who often oppose administration policies.
The administration pointedly refused to provide exceptions for most religious objectors who conscientiously oppose pills that can end the life of a human embryo, choosing instead to highlight the clash of values as a wedge issue to rally its abortion-supporting political base in the 2012 election.
The HHS Obamacare mandate threatens to punish with draconian penalties (in one case, $179 million per year) anyone who dares oppose the administration's ideology. An astounding 300 plaintiffs, including elderly Catholic nuns, faith-based charities, family business owners, Mennonite woodworkers, evangelical nonprofits, Bible publishers, hospice nurses and other unlikely enemies of the state, have fled to the courts like refugees to escape the administration's jackbooted intolerance of their convictions.
The Court ruling last week focused on the HHS Obamacare mandate's violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a two-decade old, bipartisan law that prohibits unwarranted and heavy-handed government interference with religion. Yet the cases also serve to highlight more broadly how Obama's intolerant and divisive domestic policy threatens the fundamental purpose, values and assumptions of the US Constitution. Consider the preamble to the Constitution and how its goals and principles relate to the HHS Obamacare mandate:
"Form a more perfect union"  - The Constitution's framers knew from firsthand experience that maintaining a union requires accommodating a diversity of opinions and conscience convictions. Mandating submission to the state's contraception and abortion ideology could not more clearly contradict the requirements for unity.
"Establish justice" - Establishing justice means to many increasing healthcare access for all citizens, especially for the poor. Ironically, the conscience-trampling HHS Obamacare mandate penalizes and threatens access to healthcare, by barring employers from providing healthcare coverage consistent with life-honoring standards.
"Insure domestic tranquility" - Peace can prevail even amid diverse and conflicting values, by avoiding conflagration through compromise. The administration's inflexible, intolerant HHS mandate that unduly penalizes the faith community--to the point of requiring even elderly nuns to participate in contraception--needlessly and recklessly undermines domestic tranquility.
"Provide for the common defense" - The purpose of the preventive services provision of Obamacare (under which the HHS mandate falls) is to provide a defense against disease--not against pregnancy. President Obama has asserted that 99 percent of women already use contraceptives, so why not focus instead on increasing patients' access to hard-to-get, lifesaving medicines? It's like taking aim at the Boy Scouts while jihadists assault Iraq.
"Promote the general welfare" - Given the unquestioned ubiquity and relative affordability of contraceptives, it's implausible for the administration to argue that the welfare of every woman from the Hamptons to Beverly Hills hinges on government-mandated free handouts. Nor, as the dangerously dwindling populations of Europe and Russia and the forecasts for Social Security attest, does it serve the general welfare for the government to focus its policies on preventing the births of its future citizens.
"Secure the blessings of liberty" - By penalizing conscientious objectors with draconian, multi-million-dollar fines, the HHS Obamacare mandate denies the blessings of liberty to all who disagree with the administration's ideology.
While in this ruling, freedom triumphed over tyranny, many battles for constitutional principles remain. Next up: a lawsuit involving the HHS Obamacare mandate imposed on the Little Sisters of the Poor, a group of elderly nuns providing hospice care.
The Supreme Court's rulings on these cases, by framing the boundaries of government power and plumbing the depth of our liberties, will ripple out toward every aspect of the Constitution and impact how we as a diverse society value conscience and tolerate dissent.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Highlights from US Supreme Court opinion in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.

Yesterday the Supreme Court issued a ruling upholding religious liberty, holding that the Obama administration's coercive contraceptives mandate violated the free exercise of religion. A few highlights follow; key excerpted quotations from the Court's opinion can be found here.

Key points and principles held by the Court:

1.      The Obama administration violated federal law--the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)--by substantially burdening the free exercise of religion without taking the least restrictive means of accomplishing its purpose of distributing free contraceptives. The Government easily could have assumed the cost of contraceptives to employees of objecting employers.
2.      The substantial burden on faith-based family businesses included heavy fines (over half a billion dollars imposed on three companies alone) and forcing a choice between conscience or dropping healthcare for employees.
3.      The decision is narrow, applying to the contraceptive mandate and to closely held companies (not to publicly traded corporations), and should not be seen as a license for discrimination.
4.      The job of the court is not to assess the reasonableness of a religious objection, but simply to determine whether or not it is sincere.
5.      The administration's position reveals that it views religious freedom as less important than Congress considers it.
6.      The Obama administration's position would allow forcing religious objectors to participate in any medical procedure allowed by law—including third-trimester abortions or assisted suicide.
7.      The job of the Court is not to assess the wisdom of Congress but to enforce the law (RFRA) as written.