This Is About More Than Birth Control

[originally published 8 months ago on stephaniefaye.sbvtle.com]

Unless you’ve been living under a rock that doesn’t have free Wi-Fi for the last few days, you’ve probably heard the outrage over the Hobby Lobby ruling. I didn’t really want to share much of my opinion on this because I was kind of flippy-floppy. I understand the frustration women are having over not getting their birth control covered (which I can say from personal experience… sucks), but I also understand that a corporation wanting their right to religious freedom, if that’s what it really comes down to. But I think the thing that bothers me most about the it isn’t even about birth control – it’s the fact that it sets a terrible precedence for company health plans. Based on this ruling, any boss can reject any claim for medical coverage for any reason, as long as he can say that it falls in line with his personal beliefs.

Let’s say that the CEO of a company is a Jehovah’s Witness. Now let’s say his company has an employee that needs a blood transfusion. Well Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t agree with that sort of thing, so those are medical expenses that won’t be covered by this employee’s company’s health insurance plan – that’s a bill of almost $1000 per 2 units of blood, plus hospital stay and the cost of whatever other medical treatments he needs. Now, I’m writing this while sitting comfortably in Canada, not having to worry about that because free health care is a thing we have, but for an average American citizen, I’m going to go ahead and that’s a unexpected expense he probably can’t afford to pay out of pocket.

“Well sure, Stephanie, but what are the chances my boss is going to be a Jehovah’s Witness?”, you might be saying. Alright, let’s say you have a heart condition, and need a valve replacement  – hospitals usually use bovine or porcine tissue for these procedures, as they behave most like that of a human heart valve. However, if you boss observes Jewish or Hindu faiths, respectively, you can forget about your devout Bossman covering a procedure that requires part of a pig or cow to be placed in your body.

It’s a tough line to walk, and I understand a corporation not wanting to fund practices that they don’t believe in. But I feel like, as an employer, when you hire someone, you should understand that that means you will do what you can to look out for their well-being – which includes providing a health care plan to aid them in paying for potential medical expenses that could be life-saving. I’m not saying that because someone is a big time CEO, that they should drop their own values and beliefs. I understand that you wouldn’t want to support something that goes against what you believe is right, and unfortunately you can’t aid one group of people without subsequently helping the other. But I also think that it doesn’t make you righteous in your faith to deny someone what they require to be healthy, even if it is indirectly. And let’s not even discuss the levels of disgusting that a corporation could sink to by potentially taking advantage of this ruling, and using faith as a reason to simply cut their costs for employee health plans.

What I’m outlining here is entirely hypothetical, but I think that this ruling is going to open a very scary rabbit hole, and I’m not looking forward to seeing the results. I’m the most optimistic, silver-lining type of person you’ll ever meet, but even I’m not naive enough to think corporations won’t use this ruling to their advantage, even if they seriously screw some people over. I wonder what people will think of Obama Care in a few months? Might want to sign up now, American friends.

ETA: It was pointed out to me after publishing that if 5 or fewer people own 50% of the shares of the company in question, and all share the same religion, only then can they claim a devout belief and refuse someone’s claim for medical treatment (thank you Josh!). While that information does relax me in a small way, as this means there can’t be a jerk Bossman sitting in his throne and abusing the system as I originally thought, corporations are still corporations, and their purpose is to make money. We can only hope that at least one in five people has a good moral compass.

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