I have very tenuously tied my discussion of the Hobby Lobby decision to the theme of this blog through the clever use of Doctor Who gifs, so thank you to all of my followers for putting up with me for the past few days. This will (probably) be my last post about the case, but I just had to respond to two arguments that I’ve seen cropping up again and again in response to my posts.
Myth #1: Employers were being forced to pay for contraception, and people should pay for it themselves.
Let me show you how health insurance benefits work.
Let’s say a company has $100 dollars which they will use to compensate their employee in various ways. They’ll give $50 directly to the employee in cold, hard cash, $10 will go into a retirement or savings account, and $40 will go towards health insurance benefits (These numbers are made up to illustrate a point, so just work with me for a minute). It’s all part of an employee’s compensation. Employer provided healthcare is very common in the United States because consumers can usually get cheaper healthcare when they go into together in large groups, and so employers often group all of their employees together in a group, purchase a healthcare plan, and use the size of their group to negotiate better rates.
People use their health insurance benefits in many different ways. Some people need allergy medication, some people need hip-replacement surgery, and some people need insulin. The health insurance plans handle all of those individual transactions. But now, thanks to Hobby Lobby, closely held corporations can say, “Actually, we don’t want the insurer to provide these forms of birth control. So don’t pay for them.”
Sure, the employee has $50 in cold hard cash, but that cash is already being used to pay for rent, food, clothes, and health care (because you still have to pay a co-pay out of pocket for a lot of care). Many people simply can’t afford to buy that birth control out-of-pocket (that stuff is EXPENSIVE).
They were promised a health plan worth about 40% of their total compensation that would provide for their medical needs, including birth control. But those companies aren’t providing their employees with birth control or an extra bonus in cash now that they won’t provide those methods of birth control. Therefore, their employees are being unfairly denied their compensation.
This is not a person of faith being forced to pay for birth control. This is a company providing compensation to an employee, and the employee choosing to spend that compensation on their medical needs. If a company isn’t allowed to determine how I spend my paycheck, it shouldn’t be allowed to determine how I use my health insurance.
Myth #2: This decision only impacted a few forms of birth control. It’s not a big deal.
Nope, nope, nope. The Supreme Court didn’t just say that excluding those forms of birth control was okay. They established a legal precedent which could have devastating long term consequences.
First of all, this won’t just affect Hobby Lobby. 90% of all corporations in the U.S. are “closely held,” and they employ about 52% of the American workforce. Millions of Americans could be denied the birth control they need.
And we’re not just talking about a few forms of birth control. The Supreme Court has ordered several appeals courts to review cases in which employers object to all forms of birth control using the Hobby Lobby decision. Their legal precedent may allow some companies to refuse to provide all forms of birth control to their employees.
Furthermore, this decision could affect a myriad of things beyond birth control. The decision specifically says that their reasoning wouldn’t apply to things like blood transfusions and vaccinations, which some religious individuals oppose, but gave no particular reason why not. A future court could decide this distinction is arbitrary and allow employers to refuse to provide these services too.
The court also said this decision wouldn’t necessarily allow employers to discriminate against employees based on race, but what about sexual orientation or gender identity? The Hobby Lobby decision could provide the legal justification for 90% of corporations employing 52% of the workforce to request an exemption from non-discrimination protections by claiming those protections are against their religious beliefs.
I agree with Justice Ginsburg, the majority decision stepped into a legal minefield.