Tag archives: ObamaCare

Roberts Rules of Obamacare

by David Christensen

June 26, 2015

Justice Roberts’s majority opinion in King v. Burwell stretches the idea of textual interpretation well beyond the idea of using context to understand terms. He interpreted “Exchange established by a State” to mean “any Exchange” including a federally created one, but he did so not based on various other texts of the law, but what his understanding of the “purpose” of the law was. This is a blatant misuse of policy to interpret the text. In his first ruling on Obamacare, he interpreted “penalty” to mean “tax” even though both were clearly distinguished in the law. Now according to Roberts and the majority, “established by a State” means “established by a state or the federal government”. He concluded that Congress as a policy matter did not intend to restrict subsidies for health care plans in states created by the federal government since that would cause a “death spiral”. But why not interpret the policy decision, based on the text of the law, to have created an incentive for states to create their own exchanges? But those questions and the answers to them are matters of policy, not legal or textual interpretation. Roberts wanted to salvage Obamacare, and interpreted the law to fit his understanding of its policy goals. This ad hoc approach to textual interpretation undermines the idea that Roberts is conservative as it relates to his judicial mindset, but worse, how is Congress ever to draft legislation and pass laws when they themselves won’t know how the court will rule based on how they actually write the law? That’s quite a problem for the future of our democracy. Worth reading is the WSJ editorial “The Political John Roberts” pointing out that the Chief rewrote the law “in order to save it.”

Supreme Court Coddles Congress on Obamacare

by Travis Weber

June 25, 2015

In an opinion which deals a heavy blow to our foundational separation of powers, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 today in King v. Burwell that the federal government could give out Affordable Care Act tax credits on its own health insurance exchange if a state did not set one up. Why? According to the Court, incredibly, the statutory term “established by the state” actually means “established by the state or the federal government.”

In the majority opinion, written by Chief Justice Roberts and joined by Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan opinion, the Court basically saves Congress from its own bad handiwork, scrutinizing and considering how the law would fail to work if it ruled on the plain meaning of the statute. In doing so, it illustrates how courts are not supposed to act — as legislator (considering the policy implications of a decision) as opposed to how they should — as judge (ruling on what the law means).

The trouble begins when the Court decides “established by the state” can’t just mean “state,” but must mean more given the “context and structure of the Act.” Because, in the Court’s view, this term has been deemed “ambiguous,” it is compelled “to depart from what would otherwise be the most natural reading of the pertinent statutory phrase.”

Once the provision is considered “ambiguous,” the Court is left free to jump through all sorts of hoops to reach its desired conclusion. It fruitlessly cautions: “Reliance on context and structure in statutory interpretation is a ‘subtle business, calling for great wariness lest what professes to be mere rendering becomes creation and attempted interpretation of legislation becomes legislation itself.’” I don’t know how the Court has avoided doing that here.

The Court’s mental machinations continue; it claims that while “‘the presumption of consistent usage readily yields to context,’ … a statutory term may mean different things in different places.”

After declining to apply a method of statutory interpretation that says words should not be construed to be mere rhetorical surplus, the Court had to admit the ACA is the type of muddled mess that should have encouraged the Court to have less confidence in its ability to “figure it out” and instead send it back to Congress for fixing, noting that “with respect to this Act, rigorous application of the canon [against surplus words] does not seem a particularly useful guide to a fair construction of the statute.”

Why? Even the pro-ACA majority recognizes that “[t]he Affordable Care Act contains more than a few examples of inartful drafting… . Several features of the Act’s passage contributed to that unfortunate reality.” The majority further notes that the law “does not reflect the type of care and deliberation that one might expect of such significant legislation.”

However, as the dissent notes, the Court “has no free-floating power ‘to rescue Congress from its drafting errors.’” And “[l]aws often include unusual or mismatched provisions… . This Court ‘does not revise legislation … just because the text as written creates an apparent anomaly.’”

Much of what the Court does here is try to determine what Congress intended to do. Yet with a law containing such obvious, glaring problems and omissions, which we know Members of Congress did not even read, how can we even trust any guesses about what “Congress intended to do?” At one point, the majority cites an illustration “describing a cartoon in which a senator tells his colleagues ‘I admit this new bill is too complicated to understand. We’ll just have to pass it to find out what it means.’” This is a clear reference to former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s astonishing comment that Obamacare would have to be passed before what is in it could be determined. I’m not sure if the Court intended it, but the irony — and the jab at Mrs. Pelosi — are rich.

The silver lining of this decision is that it did not expand the administrative state through excessive deference to the IRS interpretation of “established by the state.” The not-so-silver lining is that the Court’s endorsement of mushy reasoning allows anyone and everyone (which includes the administrative state and courts) to play with statutory terms to make them mean what they want them to mean.

The Court properly claimed it had the authority to interpret the provision, but then improperly seized a different type of authority to “save” the law. The Court should have resisted the temptation to play the hero — in what would have been a noble exercise of self-limitation — and deflected the statute back to Congress for fixing.

There is also a subtle assumption of congressional incompetence in this ruling. So inept was Congress in drafting and passing this legislation that the Court had to assume an intent distinctly missing from the text presented to it for review. In doing so, the Court has de facto made law by defining terms comporting with the Court’s desire to save Congress from itself.

Thus, the problem now is that “context” means anything a court wants it to mean. And that’s not a power our Constitution intended courts to have. As the dissent says, if “all it takes to make something ambiguous” is reasoning like the majority’s, then “everything is ambiguous.”

The majority concludes that “[a] fair reading of legislation demands a fair understanding of the legislative plan.” Fair enough, perhaps. But even if one were to accept that assertion, I’m not sure how, in this case, which features one of the most muddled pieces of legislation in existence (which many Members of Congress have admitted they didn’t even read), there can be any understanding of any “legislative plan.”

Justice Scalia’s dissent, joined by Justices Alito and Thomas, has the better argument: “The Court has not come close to presenting the compelling contextual case necessary to justify departing from the ordinary meaning of the terms of the law.”

The majority’s “reasoning suffers from no shortage of flaws. To begin with, ‘even the most formidable argument concerning the statute’s purposes could not overcome the clarity [of] the statute’s text.’ … Statutory design and purpose matter only to the extent they help clarify an otherwise ambiguous provision.”

Exactly. And making such clarifications is exactly the job of Congress. The Court should have ruled based on the words of the statute. If Congress disagreed with the result and wanted it fixed, it would have then had the opportunity to fix the ACA.

As the dissent points out, if the majority’s concern about potentially dooming the ACA is valid, then “these projections would show only that the statutory scheme contains a flaw; they would not show that the statute means the opposite of what it says.” Moreover, “[h]ow could the Court pronounce it ‘implausible’ for Congress to have tolerated [the same] instability in insurance markets in States with federal Exchanges … when even the Government maintained until recently that Congress did exactly that in American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands?”

The dissent nicely summed up the problems with this decision:

The Court’s decision reflects the philosophy that judges should endure whatever interpretive distortions it takes in order to correct a supposed flaw in the statutory machinery. That philosophy ignores the American people’s decision to give Congress ‘[a]ll legislative Powers’ enumerated in the Constitution. Art. I, §1. They made Congress, not this Court, responsible for both making laws and mending them. This Court holds only the judicial power — the power to pronounce the law as Congress has enacted it. We lack the prerogative to repair laws that do not work out in practice, just as the people lack the ability to throw us out of office if they dislike the solutions we concoct… . [T]his Court ‘has no roving license … to disregard clear language simply on the view that … Congress ‘must have intended’ something broader.’ . . .

Even less defensible, if possible, is the Court’s claim that its interpretive approach is justified because this Act ‘does not reflect the type of care and deliberation that one might expect of such significant legislation.’ It is not our place to judge the quality of the care and deliberation that went into this or any other law. A law enacted by voice vote with no deliberation whatever is fully as binding upon us as one enacted after years of study, months of committee hearings, and weeks of debate. Much less is it our place to make everything come out right when Congress does not do its job properly. It is up to Congress to design its laws with care, and it is up to the people to hold them to account if they fail to carry out that responsibility.

Rather than rewriting the law under the pretense of interpreting it, the Court should have left it to Congress to decide what to do about the Act’s limitation of tax credits to state Exchanges… The Court’s insistence on making a choice that should be made by Congress both aggrandizes judicial power and encourages congressional lassitude… . What a parody today’s decision makes of Hamilton’s assurances to the people of New York: ‘The legislature not only commands the purse but prescribes the rules by which the duties and rights of every citizen are to be regulated. The judiciary, on the contrary, has no influence over … the purse; no direction … of the wealth of society, and can take no active resolution whatever. It may truly be said to have neither FORCE nor WILL but merely judgment.’

The dissent points out that several years ago, the Court twisted the individual mandate (which imposes a penalty for volitional inaction) into the shape of a “tax” in order to save its constitutionality. It also “rewrote the law to withhold only the incremental funds associated with the Medicaid expansion” in order to save another provision’s constitutionality under the Spending Clause. Now, the Court believes the limitation regarding state exchanges “would prevent the rest of the Act from working as well as hoped. So it rewrites the law to make tax credits available everywhere.”

Such reasoning reveals the “discouraging truth that the Supreme Court of the United States favors some laws over others, and is prepared to do whatever it takes to uphold and assist its favorites.” Such expansionary reading by the Supreme Court to save unprecedented and large-scale government initiatives harkens back to the New Deal era. While the ACA has multiple problematic implications for religious freedom, the Court got this decision wrong based on an improper understanding of its role and erroneous view of the separation of powers. These are constitutional issues with far reaching implications that go beyond religious freedom.

As Justice Scalia rightly observes: “We should start calling this law SCOTUScare.”

Sketchy Judicial Assignments in Ninth Circuit Marriage Cases

by Chris Gacek

November 14, 2014

The American people are justified in wondering if they are ruled by interlocking ruling bodies that operate in secret, govern with unbridled duplicity, and are immune to correction by the People acting through their representatives or acting directly in referenda. There have been many prominent examples in the last two months. Two involve our imperious judicial oligarchy.

But, first we have the recent reports of repeated statements by Obamacare insider and MIT economist, Jonathan Gruber, calling the American people “stupid” and boasting that Obamacare was foisted on the public through a determined campaign of lying and deviousness. Lies on top of lies on top of lies.

Second, in early October the U.S. Supreme Court appeared to act with stunning cynicism when it dismissed requests for review of marriage-definition cases arising out of several federal appellate courts. The Court had heard an identical case when it reviewed the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 less than two years ago. However, the Prop 8 case was dismissed because the plaintiffs, the proponents of Prop 8, were deemed to lack “standing” to sue. This conclusion was reached because California’s Attorney General took a dive in the litigation and refused to defend a ballot-approved amendment to the California constitution. (Prop 8 was supported by a 52% majority in November 2008.)

The October 2014 cases petitions to the Supreme Court checked all the boxes for standing, but the cases were still turned away allowing lower court rulings that struck down male-female marriage to stay in place. It appeared the that Supreme Court was taking the coward’s way out by allowing lower courts to redefine marriage in America without publicly putting forward a majority opinion explaining how the male-female definition of marriage could violate any constitutional principle. This Court, it appeared, didn’t even have the integrity to write its own Roe v. Wade for marriage. On November 6th the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit supported the traditional marriage definition. Now that there is a split among the circuit courts, the Supreme Court’s stealth imposition strategy won’t work – if that is what they were doing. Now the nation is left with an incoherent stew of constitutional slop consisting of incongruent reasoning and standards. The reputation of the Supreme Court is being badly damaged each day this continues.

Well, if you were to think that the reputation of our black robed masterminds couldn’t get much worse, think again. In October 2014 a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a decision striking down the male-female marriage regime established be the voters of Nevada and Idaho. (The court reversed an excellent Nevada opinion that had supported traditional marriage.) In mid-October, a private group in Nevada, the Coalition for Protection of Marriage, filed a petition and a supporting affidavit with supporting statistical analysis with the full Ninth Circuit purporting to demonstrate that the panels in cases on homosexual-related issues were not being assigned randomly. In fact, they claimed that two of the court’s most liberal members (Stephen Reinhardt and Marsha S. Berzon) were greatly overrepresented in such cases. Here is how the Coalition for Protection of Marriage summarized its claim of bias in panel selection:

The attached statistical analysis … explains that since January 1, 2010, Judge Berzon has been on the merits panel in five and Judge Reinhardt has been on the merits panel in four of the eleven Ninth Circuit cases involving the federal constitutional rights of gay men and lesbians (“Relevant Cases”), far more than any other judge and far more than can reasonably be accounted for by a neutral assignment process. Indeed, statistical analysis demonstrates that the improbability of such occurring randomly is not just significant but overwhelming. Thus, the odds are 441-to-1 against what we observe with the Relevant Cases—the two most assigned judges receiving under a neutral assignment process five and four assignments respectively (and anything more extreme). (Petition, 3-4.)

If assessed accurately, this assignment pattern was not random. The case assignment was rigged to help assure the politically desired outcome.

It goes without saying that this is an extremely serious accusation that needs investigation not just by some handpicked Ninth Circuit lackey but by the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and by the new Senate Judiciary Committee to be chaired by Senator Grassley.

Healthcare Plans Are Not Returnable

by Emily Minick

September 18, 2014

Healthcare is unique among many of the products we commonly purchase in that it is non-returnable.  Healthcare is only available for purchase once a year during “Open Enrollment”, unless one has a qualifying life event. Once you enroll in a healthcare plan, while you can drop your coverage anytime over the course of the year, you cannot enroll in another plan until next open season.

Why is this significant? Well, if you have to purchase healthcare on the ObamaCare exchanges, you are unable to find out due to a secrecy clause in the law whether that particular plan covers elective abortion until after you already enroll and pay. Essentially you have to purchase a plan in order to find out what is in it. A newly released Government Accountability Office (GAO), a non-partisan government watchdog, confirmed in a groundbreaking report this week that there is a lack of transparency regarding abortion coverage in ObamaCare, with 11 out of 18 issuers not informing individuals about elective abortion coverage until after they already enroll in a particular plan.

Let’s say someone finds a plan on their respective state exchange and they enroll and they find out after that the plan includes elective abortion coverage. That individual can either a) drop coverage entirely and unless they have a qualifying life event and go without coverage for the remainder of the plan year, and more than likely be subject to the individual mandate penalty or b) violate their conscience and pay for elective abortion coverage through the abortion surcharge, which is a slush fund used to finance other people’s abortions.

Either way, these are both non-options.

Purchasing a healthcare plan before you are able to find out what is in it is completely unacceptable. Additionally, the long-standing Hyde Amendment to the Labor Health and Human Services Appropriations Bill (LHHS) strictly prohibits federal funding for abortion yet. GAO confirmed in their report, however, that Obamacare subsidizes elective abortion coverage on the exchanges with taxpayer dollars. ObamaCare therefore bypasses the principles of the Hyde Amendment.

We were told that ObamaCare would not subsidize elective abortion with taxpayer funds. I guess we can add this to the long laundry list of ways the Administration has broken their promise when it comes to ObamaCare next to individuals losing their plans, premiums increasing, limited choices and budget busting price tags.

The Social Conservative Review: June 19, 2014

by Krystle Gabele

June 19, 2014

Click here to subscribe to the Social Conservative Review.


Dear Friends,

Does the Affordable Care Act subsidize abortion?

As many of you will recall, President Obama signed an Executive Order stating that the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, would not fund abortion or abortion-related services. Of course, this was legally meaningless, as later admitted by Rahm Emanuel, since no EO can override the content of enacted legislation.

FRC has been concerned that from its inception, the ACA would subsidize abortion through the state insurance plan exchanges, and has now produced a study quantifying that concern.

Abortion Coverage in State Health Care Exchanges,” authored by the Director of FRC’s Center for Human Dignity, Arina Grossu, demonstrates that Obamacare uses taxpayer funds to subsidize abortion by various means, as noted in the bullet points below.

You can download the publication here. A PDF is available here. Please review this new study and share it with colleagues and peers concerned about the ongoing battle for the lives of the unborn and the safety and dignity of their mothers.

Thanks for standing with FRC for the most vulnerable among us. Whatever the momentary wins or losses, the right to life is one we can never surrender.

Sincerely,

Rob Schwarzwalder
Senior Vice President
Family Research Council

P.S. Be sure to watch Dr. Robert Gagnon’s superb FRC lecture on the Bible and homosexuality here.


Human Dignity and the Sanctity of Life
Abortion

Euthanasia/End of Life Issues

Stem Cells and Biotechnology

Marriage & Family
Common Core

Family Life

Human Sexuality

Homosexuality and Same-Sex “Marriage”

Pornography

Human trafficking

Religious Liberty

Religion in Public Life

International Religious Liberty

Other important articles

Book Reviews

President Obama’s Revolt Against American Liberalism

by Robert Morrison

June 13, 2014

What is not generally appreciated today is how far President Obama has taken the country from the roots of classic American Liberalism. It is one thing for conservatives and partisan Republicans to decry Mr. Obama’s rule by Executive Order, his governing by mandate. Such opposition, when principled, is what our system is designed to foster. “The business of the opposition is to oppose,” is the phrase that best describes a vibrant two-party democracy. The idea behind that is that it is in the give-and-take of open debate that the best policies for the whole country will be determined.

We know Mr. Obama actively dislikes open debate. He has declared broad areas of American public life off limits to debate. The climate change issue is “settled.” He and most fellow graduates of Ivy League law schools consider Roe v. Wade “settled law.” The late Sen. Arlen Specter (R-D-Penn.) went so far as to call that most unsettling ruling a “super precedent.”

Marriage is another issue the president considers now settled. No matter that the position upon which he was elected in 2008, and the position held by virtually all his Democratic opponents cleaved to in that contest is the position they have now abandoned. They’ve evolved, they tell us, and now that’s “settled.”

To understand how radically President Obama has departed from American Liberalism, we need only to compare his record with that of the U.S.’ most sustained, arguably most successful, example of liberal government.

Just as conservatives regularly invoke Ronald Reagan’s electoral triumphs, liberals look to the four election victories of Franklin D. Roosevelt. FDR is their model for a genuinely popular activist government committed to liberal change.

But an important recent article in The New Republic by Robert Kagan brings us a startling quote from Roosevelt in 1941 that shows the stark differences between FDR’s American Liberalism and President Obama’s essentially European leftism.

The “institutions of democracy” would be placed at risk even if America’s security was not, because America would have to become an armed camp to defend itself. Roosevelt urged Americans to look beyond their immediate physical security. “There comes a time in the affairs of men,” he said, “when they must prepare to defend, not their homes alone, but the tenets of faith and humanity on which their churches, their governments, and their very civilization are founded. The defense of religion, of democracy, and of good faith among nations is all the same fight. To save one we must now make up our minds to save all.”

President Roosevelt was trying in the speech quoted above to prepare Americans for what he saw as an urgent necessity to defend democracy by fighting against Hitler and the Nazi menace.

The speech, however, stands out almost as a statue in a great museum illuminated by a sudden flash of lightning from a threatening storm outside: Notice what Franklin Roosevelt places on a par with men defending their own homes: “the tenets of faith and humanity.” And these are shown as foundational for “their churches, their governments, and their very civilization.”

Roosevelt was a religious man. His faith had deepened in his early bout with paralyzing polio. He doubtless saw his own rise to the pinnacle of American politics as a result of divine Providence.

In August, 1941, four months before the U.S. was attacked at Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt sailed aboard the USS Augusta to a secret rendezvous with Britain’s Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. The liberal Roosevelt braved death to meet with the conservative Churchill. Those chilly waters of the North Atlantic were infested with German U-boats. Roosevelt’s and Churchill’s warships would have been prime targets for sinking.

When FDR’s son Elliott went to see Churchill in his plush stateroom, aboard HMS Prince of Wales, anchored in the cold, black waters of Placentia Bay, Newfoundland, he told the wartime Prime Minister “father thinks you are the greatest man in the world.” Elliott added “my father is a very religious man.”

Churchill already knew that. That’s why he chose the hymns that would be sung by thousands of British and American sailors in a joint worship service on board the Royal Navy battleship. Prince of Wales still bore scars from the recent pursuit and sinking of the great German warship, Bismarck.

The Prime Minister sang lustily if off key, joining his new American friend in “O God Our Help in Ages Past,” “Eternal Father Strong to Save,” and “Onward Christian Soldiers.”

Roosevelt was deeply moved and it shows in the old newsreels. He knew that Nazism was anti-Christian even as it was murderously anti-Semitic.

President Obama’s leftism derives none of its strength from these Christian sources. During the entire twelve years of FDR’s popular administration, there was never anything remotely like the ObamaCare Mandates that so menace religious freedom in America.

When he greeted the first Soviet ambassador to the U.S., Maxim Litvinov, FDR sternly lectured that atheist Communist about the need for greater religious freedom in the USSR. He thought, doubtless naively, that the grandson of a rabbi would understand how essential religion is to a healthy state.

Today, as we await the U.S. Supreme Court’s verdict in the Hobby Lobby case, we are concerned that the four liberal justices — Breyer, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan — will line up against the ideals of religious freedom that FDR and liberals of his era would have instinctively understood and respected.

Nor is it Christians alone whose freedoms are threatened under the Obama administration. The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America shares our concerns with the HHS Mandate.

The [Obama] Administration’s ruling makes the price of…an outward approach [to our fellow Americans] the violations of an organization’s religious principles. This is deeply disappointing.

To our Jewish fellow citizens, whose religious freedom is also threatened by the Obama administration, we can only say: Amen!

Let us pray for a liberty-affirming result from the Supreme Court.

How hard is it to flip on a light switch on a Saturday?

by Travis Weber

May 9, 2014

That was the essence of the rhetorical question posed by attorney Noel Francisco, counsel for the D.C. Archdiocese, to the 3-judge panel hearing oral arguments yesterday at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in the consolidated cases of Priests for Life v. Sebelius and Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. v. Sebelius. The plaintiff organizations in these cases object on religious grounds to being forced by law to provide coverage to certain contraceptives — contraceptives that would otherwise be required under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and associated regulations. The organizations are challenging the government’s requirement that they “certify” they have objections to these contraceptives by signing a form, thus entitling them to an “accommodation” from the law’s scheme under which employers must ensure their insurers provide ACA-compliant coverage. The signed form then triggers government coverage of such contraceptives for the employees of the objecting organizations.

In the organizations’ view, however, this scheme forcing them to play a part in the provision of such contraceptives compels them by law to directly violate Catholic Church teaching by making them complicit in the moral wrong of abortion, and thus constitutes a “substantial burden” on their religious practice. This injury led them to bring claims under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, under which the government can only “substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion” when its regulation “(1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.”

The substantial burden still exists even if all the organizations had to do was sign a form certifying they had such objections. It was not the act of picking up the pen and signing the paper that constituted a substantial burden, Mr. Francisco told the judges, but rather the crushing weight of conscience accompanying such an action which violated the very core of their being. It was not the relative ease or difficulty of a specific act which led to the burden, but rather the crushing moral and spiritual compulsion of knowing one is complicit in a moral wrong with the exercise of that one, small, physical act.

Enter Mr. Francisco’s question from my title here. Just like his clients, who feel compelled to violate beliefs going to the core of who they are even by the small act of signing a piece of paper, a Jewish business owner who believes his religion demands he rest on the Sabbath is compelled to violate his conscience when forced to work on Saturday by the small, bur significant, physical act of flipping on the light switch at his business. He is not substantially burdened merely by the physical act of flipping on the switch, but rather by the heavy weight of conscience telling him he is violating all he lives for once he accomplishes that one little flick of his finger.

The Illusion of Healthcare Choice in Obamacare

by Emily Minick

May 8, 2014

Sylvia Burwell is testifying this morning before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, the first stop in her confirmation process to become the next secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to replace retiring HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Unfortunately, a new face for the Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare” will not re-write this law’s troubling past, nor its rocky future.

President Obama touted this law as a new frontier in healthcare choice, affordability and flexibility. HHS writes, “The Affordable Care Act puts consumers back in charge of their health care. Under the law, a new ‘Patient’s Bill of Rights’ gives the American people the stability and flexibility they need to make informed choices about their health.”

Choice in healthcare under Obamacare is only a mirage, however – a mere talking point, especially when it comes to whether abortion is included in a particular healthcare plan on the exchanges. Individuals who want to be informed about whether a particular healthcare plan covers elective abortion are not given this information at all under this law. This troubles Americans across the political spectrum.

Indeed, Obamacare contains an “abortion secrecy clause” in Section 1303(b)(3) which prohibits individuals from finding out whether a specific plan on the healthcare exchange covers elective abortion until before enrollment and only allows information on abortion at the time of enrollment in the summary of benefits documents. Additionally, the amount of the separate “abortion surcharge” that enrollees must pay as part of these plans is also not disclosed in the monthly premium. Essentially, you have to buy a plan before you can find out what is in it, and you may never find out how much the abortion coverage for which you are paying costs you each month. This is hardly surprising coming from a law that then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi declared we needed to pass before we could find out what was in it.

American consumers are out of luck whether they are looking for a plan that includes abortion coverage or for a plan that excludes abortion.

Millions of Americans received their infamous healthcare cancellation notice in the mail last fall informing them that their healthcare plan, which they liked and could afford, would be cancelled and made illegal due to Obamacare.

Among those Americans was Barth Bracy, a resident of Connecticut. Bracy, needing to purchase healthcare for himself and his family, looked at plans available on his state exchange to satisfy the law’s individual mandate. Like many Americans, Bracy has religious and moral objections to paying for other people’s abortions and in order to qualify for a healthcare subsidy, he has to purchase a plan on the Connecticut state exchange. Due to the abortion secrecy clause however, he was unable to find out what plans did and did not cover abortion on Connecticut’s state exchange. Later he found that every plan in Connecticut’s exchange covered abortion – a fact the Guttmacher Institute confirmed. This is in clear violation of federal law, which requires that for Multi-State plans run by the government in exchanges, at least one excludes abortion coverage.

For Connecticut residents like Bracy, there is no healthcare choice under Obamacare. Bracy can either violate his conscience and purchase a healthcare plan that includes abortion coverage on the state exchange when his current plan expires, or be fined by the IRS for non-compliance with the individual mandate and forgo healthcare coverage for his family, or give up the subsidy and purchase a more expensive plan off the exchange in order to avoid violating his conscience. Bracy, represented by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), has filed suit in federal court (Bracy v. Sebelius) is alleging violations of the federal and state Religious Freedom Restoration Acts, the Free Exercise Clause, and his right to receive information under the Free Speech Clause.

Americans should be able to clearly identify what healthcare plans do and do not cover. Abortion coverage in healthcare plans should be as identifiable as the plans’ deductible, co-pay and other covered procedures. Americans should not have to pay an abortion surcharge if their plan does cover abortion.

Burwell will have a tough task ahead of her in her confirmation hearing. She not only will have to defend the trillion-dollar price tag of this law but also its blatant violation of the separation of powers by the administration, which has delayed key provisions of the law over 30 times, the law’s violation of the principle of the long-standing Hyde Amendment, the destruction of the 40-hour work-week in America, and why the Obama administration refuses to provide even the most basic transparency when it comes to abortion coverage in healthcare plans.

Burwell must answer why Obamacare is denying choice to millions of Americans as a result of the abortion secrecy clause.

Grocery stores don’t hide nutrition labels on food packages. Car dealerships don’t deny potential customers the opportunity to test-drive a vehicle. Similarly, Americans should not be kept in the dark about what healthcare plans do and do not cover.

The next HHS secretary should assume responsibility for the lack of transparency in Obamacare and should commit the Department to working with Congress and the administration to eliminate the abortion secrecy clause.

Who would want to get married today?

by Robert Morrison

November 25, 2013

With the mounting concerns over the “debacle” of ObamaCare, with Iran given permission to retain their nuclear program provided they “freeze” just certain portions of it, the world looks like a threatening place. So, who would want to marry and bring children into such a world, beset by economic worries, dogged by environmental concerns and living as we do under what President Kennedy called “a nuclear sword of Damocles”?

Well, things didn’t seem a whole lot brighter in 1978. Thirty-five years ago, my fiancee and I prepared for our wedding in San Francisco. The weather that entire week was gray and menacing. So somber was the mood. Hundreds of bodies were being returned to the Bay Area from Jonestown where people had been forced to drink poison Kool-Aid. The aftermath of that suicide cult hung over the city like a pall. Then, too the day after we exchanged our vows in dear old St. Paulus Evangelical Lutheran Church, we began our honeymoon in an Alpine village in Southern California’s San Bernardino Mountains. It was there we saw the news. San Francisco’s Mayor Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk had been assassinated.

The first good news we had from the outside world came on the third day of our getaway. We sat at a picnic table surrounded by snow-covered mountains and saw the newspaper headlines: “Pope on a Slope.” Pope John Paul II had been elected just six weeks earlier. There was great excitement around the world for this dynamic new leader on the world stage. Even as non-Catholics, we shared in the enthusiasm for the Polish Pope. Whoever heard of a Pope who skiied?

In the thirty-five years since that wedding day, we have had the usual portion of joys and sorrows. We have endured the loss of beloved parents and the death of a 16-year old cousin. We have had to cope with financial gains and losses. Was there something in those vows about for “not-so-richer or poorer”?

I had always been taught that a man should lay down his life for his wife. And I was prepared to do just that.

So imagine my surprise when I found my wife saving my life. I had just turned forty when I was stricken with a violent headache. It felt as if there were nine-inch nails being driven into my skull.

Rushed to the Emergency Room at Bethesda Naval Hospital, my wife, an officer in the Medical Service Corps, waited in the ER with our two small children for long hours for a diagnosis. Despite the lateness and the children crying in the summer’s heat, my wife pressed them to give me a spinal tap. The test results confirmed that I had viral meningitis.

Told there were no beds available for me at the hospital, my wife stubbornly refused to let me be taken to a local civilian hospital. She has often said that she wasn’t sure we had insurance for such treatment, but I know she did not want me taken to a place where she did not know the medical staff and their reputations. Emphatically, she told them she was a staff officer and knew there had to be a bed somewhere in the giant facility.

I awoke several days later in the Neuro Step-Down Unit. I was surrounded by dying patients. Naturally, I assumed I was one of them. It’s an experience you tend to remember.

Some time later, when I was out immediate danger, the navy doctors and my wife crowded around my hospital bed in their crisp, starched whites.

He’ll have short-term memory lapses. He’ll be emotional. And irritable,” they told her. Not skipping a beat, my beloved shot back: “And the difference I am supposed to notice in him is what?” One of the best ways to cross that threshold back from death’s door, I submit, is a good laugh.

Throughout our marriage — when children and grandchildren came and when we were earnestly praying for their safety — we remembered the words of that Polish Pope when he was first brought out onto the balcony of St. Peter’s in Rome. I had not heard the words, but read them from the clickety-clack of a teletype machine as it printed its message on a roll of yellow paper. I was on board our Coast Guard cutter, in the middle of the Bering Sea, about as far away from Rome as you can get.

The Pope spoke to the City and to the World and said:

Be Not Afraid!

Those words sustained us in our marriage. After four hundred twenty months of marriage, those are words I would still share with today’s young people: Trust in God and trust in your love for each other. Go ahead boldly and be not afraid.

Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) on Washington Watch with Tony Perkins: ‘This President is Losing Credibility Day by Day’

by Bethany Brock

November 14, 2013

Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) appeared on yesterday’s edition of “Washington Watch with Tony Perkins” to give an update on Obamacare:

We didn’t believe that this law was going to be helpful or that promises would be kept.  We knew healthcare was going to get more expensive and people were going to have fewer benefits.”

The Department of Health and Human Services recently released the number of people who have registered for an Obamacare exchange health insurance plan. The current number of those enlisted is far lower than the administration’s projected numbers.

We could easily have a market-based competitive model [of healthcare] that brings in the private sector so that these health insurance  plans could be something that people want to buy and might be able to afford.”

Shimkus said the problem with Obamacare is that people cannot tell what services are provided by the various health care policies, even though policies are required by law to list the services provided. One service people are particularly concerned about is whether plans they buy cover abortion.

If you go to the plans and they don’t say that, then you’ve got some adamant pro-life constituents of mine trying to go on an exchange plan, but they don’t know if their money is going to cover abortion or abortion services, which they do not want their money to go to,” Shimkus said.

He added, “According to polling, this president is losing credibility day by day. When you lose credibility or trust of the American people, you are in real trouble. It’s embarrassing for the chief executive of this country to be equivocating and misdirecting and redefining issues.”

Click here to listen to the entire interview.

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