Not a shocker: our two Republican Senators voted in favor of the Blunt Amendment in the Senate today, which would have allowed any employer to refuse to allow employer-provided health insurance to cover specific services. The amendment was designed to combat Obama's efforts to force employers to cover birth control costs in their employee health insurance plans. The amendment failed, with Republican Olympia Snowe joining 50 Democrats in voting against it, while Democrats Ben Nelson, Joe Manchin, and Bob Casey voted for the amendment with every other Republican.
Of course, had it succeeded, employers could not only have decided not to cover birth control in their insurance, but also any other service they find “morally questionable” — from blood transfusions to breast exams to strep tests. Employers could have used this provision to avoid covering costly services (maternity care, end of life care) if they argued that such medical services were “immoral” and thus able to spend less on insurance by seeking out cheaper plans that don't cover these costly services.
In practice, however, this amendment was designed to allow employers to deny birth control coverage to their female employees. Religious universities and hospitals want to deny coverage of birth control to their female employees, regardless of the woman's faith, and regardless of why the woman takes birth control — reasons that may have nothing to do with preventing pregnancy and everything to do with endometriosis, acne, or other medication that causes birth defects and thus is co-prescribed with hormonal birth control. Prescription birth control can be very expensive when not covered by insurance. Even generics can be out of reach for low-income women. But that's no concern to Republicans.Republicans think that employers have the right to decide for their female employees whether or not they should be able to have insurance provide birth control.
From Politico, emphasis mine:
Democrats said the Obama administration – which last month told religious-affiliated employers that insurance companies would have to pay for the contraceptives if they had a problem with it – reached a fair compromise. They accused Republicans of trying to ban contraceptives and putting the decision of whether to use birth control in the hands of employers.
“Imagine that, your boss will decide whether you're acting morally,” said Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) “It's appalling we're having this debate in the 21st century.”
Had the Republican bill become law, the nearly 80 million women who receive coverage through their employers could have lost access to birth control.