As usual, the problem in the broadest possible view is the existence of men.
Since I haven’t got a quick fix for that, a few thoughts on the Hobby Lobby, the ACA, (the) God(s), and the Supreme Court, in no particular order.
Short of a divine program/pogrom to eliminate men via the rapid evolution of some kind of viable mammalian parthenogenesis (Are you there, God? It’s me, Jacob), the problem is less the historical animosity of the major religions to sexual freedom in general and women’s sexual freedom in particular—more about these below—than it is the specifically American weirdness of crafting a broad national policy in which the healthcare of most working-age adults and their children is provided by those adults’ employers through contracts with rent-taking private health “insurance” companies.
Of course, the US does have a public healthcare provision for the elderly and (some) of the (very) poor. Medicare and Medicaid broadly undercompensate hospital systems and providers, who in turn vastly inflate the billed costs of services, which are subsequently “negotiated” down by private “insurers”, who in turn mark back up their own costs to the companies and occasional individuals who contract with them. These so-called insurance companies are really more brokers than insurers. Hilariously, most companies actually hire 3rd-(4th?)-party brokers to negotiate rates with these very insurance companies. Along the way, any number of other con men, from vastly overpaid doctors to millionaire health system administrators to big pharma firms dip into this huge pool of sloshing money to extract their share of the racket. It is the stupidest system of public provision ever dreamed up in the mind of man; it makes the most corrupt developing-world griftopia look like a paradise of reasonable governance. At least when you bribe a policeman for a bogus traffic stop, you know exactly what it costs and what you’ve got out of it. Can you say the same for your latest hospital bill or “statement of benefits”?
The Hobby Lobby decision itself is a good bit narrower than the more dire reactions would have you believe, and it does appear that the ACA’s existing mechanism for allowing religious non-profits to opt out of certain coverages for moral reasons by effectively shifting the cost back to the government provides a reasonable mechanism for continuing to subsidize the contraceptive coverage for women whose private, for-profit employers opt out.
Naturally—this being America!—the deranged result here is another row of dominos in the Goldberg device: the federal government mandates a private business purchase a marked-up employee health coverage plan from a different private entity with the proviso that some of the mandated coverages are actually optional and the business may direct its insurer not to include such coverages, in which case the government will step back in to pay for them semi-directly. Does that sentence make sense? No, not really. Yes, exactly.
Obviously, this expensive, stupid system would best be replaced by a national, single-payer system, like all the other good ones in the world.
“We woulda, if it wasn’t for those evil ReTHUGlicans intent on opposing anything that President Obama wanted to do.” –Liberals
Yeah, who’s the superstitious religious nutsos who believe based on faith in the absence of evidence here? A historical note: the ACA passed with no support from the opposition party. The reason the Democrats did not pass single payer is that the Democrats did not pass single payer.
Returning to the Supreme Court for a moment: has ever any cryptomasonic gaggle of semi-intellectuals in the history of human society labored so conspicuously to cloak their inevitable arrival at their own obvious a priori conclusions in an evidentiary process? Again, you wanna talk religion? How about the belief that nine concurrent lifetime Popes operating under a principle of practical infallibility that makes the claims of the actual Vatican seem positively modest by comparison are going to utilize some marvelous hybrid of inductive and deductive reasoning to protect the holy principles of democracy, whatever those are. Of course this was going to be the outcome. Hey, I cheered too when Anthony Kennedy laid down the unassailable mandate (pun intended) that we gays can marry, but I ask you, is the system/institution that put that question beyond appeal a good one, now that the worm turned and the same old codger decided that, while gay marriage is good, ladies having too much sex is bad?
As for the Hobby Lobby, I’ve got an MBA and shit, and I cannot come up with a definition of a “closely held company.” Or, rather, I can come up with any number of definitions, all of them perfectly reasonable, which I could very easily apply to almost any company on earth, from the corner store to Exxon/Mobil.
Now, in general, I have more sympathy for religious peculiarity than your average American liberal; I am the sort of person who looks upon the word Balkanization with something less than total horror. I think that the conservative/orthodox religious opposition to contraception is wrong and incoherent, but I’m almost as skeptical of the use of the coercive power of the government to force them into moderating those views as I am of the notion that drone strikes in Pakistan will free women from the burqa. Are the Hobby Lobby owners hypocrites, investing in birth control on one hand while forbidding it on the other? Yes, they are human. But let’s take the Hobby Lobby owners at their incoherent but nevertheless sincere word: they believe God doesn’t want them to pay for their employees to use (certain) forms of female contraception.
Is this sexist, odious, and inequitable? Yes. But.
If the US had a functioning labor market that didn’t force so many people, especially women, to work for whatever checkout line would deign to hire them, this would all be much less critical. We could go on believing that corporations were voluntary associations rather than effectively feudal fiefdoms and that those who don’t agree with Ma and Pa Hobby Lobby could just vote with their feet.
Of course, we all know that that’s not the case. Labor is unfree. People are stuck in these shitty jobs. The Hobby Lobby is actually a good one in that it pays better wages than your average WalMart. A person’s access to healthcare should not be subordinate to the crackpot morality of their bosses. But here is the thing. It shouldn’t be subordinate to the perfectly rational desire of their bosses to save money on the health plan either. And here we are, back at single payer as the only equitable solution.
Just as a side note, the Court’s other opinion, Harris v. Quinn, regarding the mandatory payment of union dues, also made liberals mad. Hey, remember earlier this month when President Obama busted the Philly Transit strike? Yeah, I thought so.
The way to protect individuals from the whims of their employers is to provide everyone—everyone—with a basic provision of food, shelter, clothing, medical care. Forget the “employer mandate.” Give everyone healthcare. Forget the minimum wage. Give everyone a guaranteed minimum income. Scarcity, by and large, is a scam.