by Max Brantley
Mike "We Are All Catholics Today" Huckabee, when he was Arkansas governor, apparently signed a health insurance mandate law in 2005 that included contraception in preventive care. He was among many Republicans in many states who did the same.
Oops. In Arkansas, that law had two Republican co-sponsors. More checking will be required. But I hope Sen. Missy Irvin and the ALEC squad is on the lookout for these apostates.
The background, as I've mentioned here before, is that the federal EEOC said in 2000 that all employers with more than 15 workers must cover contraceptives for women if they offer health plans that cover preventive services and prescription drugs. Many states, including Arkansas, passed mandates into law. Republicans supported the legislation, in states such as Iowa, Arizona and, in 2001, New York, where George Pataki signed the legislation.
Four years later, the Arkansas law easily cleared that state's Legislature, with help from Republican lawmakers, including two GOP cosponsors. Huckabee signed it in April 2005.
He defended the law in a statement. "Religious employers are not required to comply with this policy," he said. "My position is, and always has been, that religious entities shouldn't be forced to pay for contraception."
But like the original federal regulation proposed by Obama, the Arkansas law did not exempt church-affiliated hospitals and universities. It exempts only "religious employers" that are nonprofit organizations whose primary mission is "the inculcation of religious values," and primarily employ people who share the same religion, a standard few Catholic hospitals meet.
The new Obama regulation makes no requirements of even religious affiliates. It requires health insurance companies to pay for preventive care.
PS — We inquired of a St. Vincent Infirmary spokesman recently whether their health coverage provided for contraception. She said it did not. Sounds like we need to re-check.
UPDATE: Thanks to a Huckabee supporter for providing a link to the Arkansas law in question. It's the Equity in Prescription Insurance and Contraceptive Coverage Act. If plans provide prescription coverage, they must cover birth control.
Here's the religious exemption language, verbatim, from Arkansas law:
"Religious employer" means an entity:
(A) That is organized and operated for religious purposes and has received a § 501(c)(3) designation from the Internal Revenue Service;
(B) That has as one (1) of its primary purposes the inculcation of religious values; and
(C) That employs primarily persons who share its religious tenets
And here's the crux of the coverage requirement:
Every health benefit policy that is delivered, issued, executed, or renewed in this state or approved for issuance or renewal in this state by the Insurance Commissioner on or after the effective date of this subchapter that provides coverage for prescription drugs on an outpatient basis shall provide coverage for prescribed drugs or devices approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration for use as a contraceptive.
"Abortifacients" are exempted, but, still a good law and kudos for Huckabee's signature. It would appear to go even farther than the
Huckabee Obama compromise in mandating coverage under health policies issued by institutions with religious affiliations if they don't exist primarily for that purpose and don't primarily employ people of that religion.