Daniel Kuebler

The tale of two Catholic universities, and Obamacare

Daniel Kuebler
By Daniel Kuebler

Two Catholic universities, Franciscan University of Steubenville and Ave Maria University, recently announced that they will drop their student health-care plans for the coming year. The schools also announced that they will no longer require students to have health insurance.

Given the giant range of institutions and people affected by Obamacare and its mandates, the impact of this decision by two universities, each with less than 3,000 students, may seem small. But it is not the scope of impact that matters so much as the broader problem the decision highlights. Two federal regulations that pushed Franciscan and Ave Maria to drop student health-care plans indicate quite clearly what will happen if Obamacare is allowed to stand: More Americans will become uninsured unless they transition into government-subsidized healthcare plans.

As Obamacare passed through Congress, the president promised that everyone could keep his health-care plan if he liked it. No one would be forced to move to a different plan if he was content with the coverage he had. Yet one need only grasp the outcome of each new regulation put forth by the unaccountable bureaucrats at the Department of Health and Human Services to see this lie being gradually exposed.

What Obama should have said is that everyone can keep his plan only if the government likes it. As Obamacare’s burdensome regulations are defined and put into effect, very few existing plans will be able to survive. This seems to be the unspoken goal of Obamacare: to ensure the slow but steady demise of private insurance plans, all under the guise of reform. What this “reform” will leave in its wake is a single, onerous, and restrictive government-run health-care system.

Franciscan and Ave Maria’s decision to drop student health-care plans is just a case in point of institutions being prodded toward this goal. In their case, two recent regulations have led to the decision to drop student health care, a decision that will probably move more people to government-subsidized care.

The first regulation that prompted the universities’ decision is one with which most people are familiar: the HHS mandate that requires all plans to cover abortifacients, contraceptives, and sterilization. Since this mandate violates the moral obligations of these two religiously affiliated universities, and the Obama administration’s religious exemption to this rule is so restrictive—without precedent—the universities’ only option is to mount a legal challenge.

If the courts fail to protect their right of religious liberty, Franciscan and Ave Maria—along with dozens of other religiously affiliated institutions, no doubt—will drop health coverage for employees in addition to students. That move will inevitably drive more people toward the government-subsidized exchanges and away from privately funded plans.

Since the contraceptive mandate will not take effect for another year, however, these schools could have, in good conscience, provided health-care plans to students this year. They decided to drop coverage this year because of a second federal regulation affecting student health-care plans that took effect in March. It stipulates that student health-care plans must have no annual coverage limits by the year 2014. This regulation will be enforced through two intermediate stages: All current plans must have annual coverage limits of at least $100,000, and plans issued after this September must have annual coverage limits of at least $500,000.

Because roughly 25 percent of student health-care plans have annual limits lower than half a million dollars, this means steep premium increases for these students over the next few years. Franciscan and Ave Maria have indicated that their premiums would go up at least 66 percent this year, and more than double next year. By 2014, when these plans must have no annual limit, the premiums will rise even higher.

It might seem that removing annual limits would protect more students from catastrophic health-care costs. But it won’t, because many universities and colleges will probably follow Franciscan and Ave Maria by dropping student health-care plans altogether. Moreover, the typical college student’s health-care costs never even approach the annual limits that have been calculated for these plans. College students are a relatively healthy population for whom low-cost/low-benefit plans are often the option of choice. Not any longer.

The net effect of this change is that it will make health care too expensive for many college students. The Government Accountability Office estimates that this new rule will affect at least 300,000 students in the next two years, and even more in 2014. The adverse effects of implementing this regulation are simple to comprehend from an economic standpoint: The spike in health-care coverage cost will raise the number of uninsured Americans.

While Obamacare requires that all citizens have health insurance coverage by 2014, it is hardly a stretch to assume that some college students may decide that risking the small penalty is better than paying the new higher premiums. Indeed, taking that risk would be a financially sound move for the many students who will not experience serious health-care problems during college. And students who do get hospitalized without insurance will still receive care. Their costs will simply be passed on to the rest of us in the form of higher premiums. All they would have to do is pay the fine.

For students who want to maintain their insurance coverage but cannot afford it, government-subsidized plans—which will be paid for by taxpayers—will make up the difference. Thus the side effects of this regulation—one could hardly call them unintended—are that thousands of students will find themselves either without any health-care insurance at all, or dependent upon the government dole for it.

Most people would see this as problematic, yet the goal of Obamacare seems to be to move people from well-functioning private plans toward government-approved and -subsidized plans. In fact, the very manner by which it is set up has many businesses considering dropping health insurance coverage when Obamacare is fully implemented in 2014. For many businesses it will be cheaper to pay the fine than to offer health-care coverage to their employees.

A report from the House Ways and Means Committee found that once Obamacare is fully implemented in 2014, the average Fortune 100 Company could save $402 million by dropping coverage and pushing its employees into the government-subsidized exchanges. In a market economy, businesses will do what makes economic sense, and the architects of Obamacare not only know this possibility but welcome it.

At the end of the day, the more people the Obamacare architects can corral into government-approved and -subsidized health care by regulating private plans into submission, the more control they will have over the health-care system. They can then further incentivize the dispensing of contraception, abortion, sterilization, and euthanasia—all of which can be at least short-term cost-savers—and at the same time use their own cold utilitarian calculus to determine who gets access to the health-care system. In a bloated unresponsive government-run system, these are the only ways to drive down costs. This is where we are heading once Obamacare fully flexes its muscle.

While the health-care system in America needs to be reformed, Franciscan and Ave Maria’s decision to drop student health-care plans offers just one example of how Obamacare is not the answer. Rather than reforming the system, it is deforming it. Step by step, regulation by regulation, the authors of Obamacare are bent upon creating a monolithic government-controlled system that will eventually take on a life of its own.

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Daniel Kuebler is a Professor of Biology at Franciscan University of Steubenville. This article reprinted with permission from thepublicdiscourse.com.


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Quebec groups launch court challenge to euthanasia bill

LifeSiteNews staff
By LifeSiteNews staff

As announced when the Quebec legislature adopted Bill 52, An Act respecting end-of-life care, the citizen movement Living with Dignity and the Physicians’ Alliance against Euthanasia, representing together over 650 physicians and 17,000 citizens, filed a lawsuit before the Superior Court of Quebec in the District of Montreal on Thursday.

The lawsuit requests that the Court declare invalid all the provisions of the Act that deal with “medical aid in dying”, a term the groups say is a euphemism for euthanasia. This Act not only allows certain patients to demand that a physician provoke their death, but also grants physicians the right to cause the death of these patients by the administration of a lethal substance.

The two organizations are challenging the constitutionality of those provisions in the Act which are aimed at decriminalizing euthanasia under the euphemism “medical aid in dying”. Euthanasia constitutes a culpable homicide under Canada’s Criminal Code, and the organizations maintain that it is at the core of the exclusive federal legislative power in relation to criminal law and Quebec therefore does not have the power to adopt these provisions.

The organizations also say the impugned provisions unjustifiably infringe the rights to life and to security of patients guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. They further infringe the right to the safeguard of the dignity of the person, which is also protected by the Quebec Charter.

In view of the gravity of the situation and the urgent need to protect all vulnerable persons in Quebec, they are requesting an accelerated management of the case in order to obtain a judgment before the Act is expected to come into force on December 10, 2015.


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Colorado baker appeals gvmt ‘re-education’ order

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By LifeSiteNews staff

A Colorado cake artist who declined to use his creative talents to promote and endorse a same-sex ceremony appealed a May 30 order from the Colorado Civil Rights Commission to the Colorado Court of Appeals Wednesday.

The commission’s order requires cake artist Jack Phillips and his staff at Masterpiece Cakeshop to create cakes for same-sex celebrations, forces him to re-educate his staff that Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act means that artists must endorse all views, compels him to implement new policies to comply with the commission’s order, and requires him to file quarterly “compliance” reports for two years. The reports must include the number of patrons declined a wedding cake or any other product and state the reason for doing so to ensure he has fully eliminated his religious beliefs from his business.

“Americans should not be forced by the government – or by another citizen – to endorse or promote ideas with which they disagree,” said the cake artist’s lead counsel Nicolle Martin, an attorney allied with Alliance Defending Freedom. “This is not about the people who asked for a cake; it’s about the message the cake communicates. Just as Jack doesn’t create baked works of art for other events with which he disagrees, he doesn’t create cake art for same-sex ceremonies regardless of who walks in the door to place the order.”

“In America, we don’t force artists to create expression that is contrary to their convictions,” added Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “A paint artist who identifies as homosexual shouldn’t be intimidated into creating a painting that celebrates one-man, one-woman marriage. A pro-life photographer shouldn’t be forced to work a pro-abortion rally. And Christian cake artists shouldn’t be punished for declining to participate in a same-sex ceremony or promote its message.”

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In July 2012, Charlie Craig and David Mullins asked Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, to make a wedding cake to celebrate their same-sex ceremony. In an exchange lasting about 30 seconds, Phillips politely declined, explaining that he would gladly make them any other type of baked item they wanted but that he could not make a cake promoting a same-sex ceremony because of his faith. Craig and Mullins, now represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, immediately left the shop and later filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division. The case now goes to the Colorado Court of Appeals as Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Craig.

“Jack, and other cake artists like him – such as those seen on TV shows like ‘Ace of Cakes’ and ‘Cake Boss’ – prepare unique creations that are inherently expressive,” Tedesco explained. “Jack invests many hours in the wedding cake creative process, which includes meeting the clients, designing and sketching the cake, and then baking, sculpting, and decorating it. The ACLU calls Jack a mere ‘retail service provider,’ but, in fact, he is an artist who uses his talents and abilities to create expression that the First Amendment fully protects."

Celebrity cake artists have written publicly about their art and the significant expressive work that goes into the artistic design process for wedding cakes.


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Prisoner of conscience Mary Wagner appeals her conviction

Tony Gosgnach
By Tony Gosgnach

TORONTO -- As promised, Mary Wagner has, through her counsel Dr. Charles Lugosi, filed a formal notice of appeal on numerous points regarding her recent, almost two-year-long court case that ended on June 12.

Justice Fergus O’Donnell of the Ontario Court of Justice rejected every application made by the defence – including for access to abortion center records, public funding, standing for a constitutional challenge and for expert witnesses to be heard – before he found Wagner guilty and sentenced her to five months in jail on a charge of mischief and four months on four counts of failing to comply with probation orders.

He further levied two years of probation, with terms that she stay at least 100 metres away from any abortion site. However, because Wagner had spent a greater time in jail than the sentence, she was freed immediately. She had been arrested at the “Women’s Care Clinic” abortion site on Lawrence Avenue West in Toronto on August 15, 2012 after attempting to speak to abortion-bound women there. She then spent the duration of the trial in prison for refusing to sign bail conditions requiring her to stay away from abortion sites.

Wagner is using the matter as a test case to challenge the current definition of a human being in Canadian law – that is, that a human being is legally recognized as such only after he or she has fully emerged from the birth canal in a breathing state.

Wagner’s notice states the appeal is regarding:

  • Her conviction and sentence on a single count of mischief (interference with property),
  • Her conviction and sentence on four counts of breach of probation,
  • The order denying public funding,
  • The order denying the disclosure of third-party records,
  • The order denying the admission of evidence from experts on the applicant’s constitutional challenge concerning the constitutional validity of Section 223 of the Criminal Code,
  • The order denying the admission of evidence from experts concerning the construction of Section 37 of the Criminal Code,
  • The probation order denying Wagner her constitutional rights to freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion on all public sidewalks and public areas within 100 metres of places where abortions are committed,
  • And each conviction and sentence and all orders and rulings made by O’Donnell.

In the notice of appeal, Lugosi cites numerous points on which O’Donnell erred:

  • He denied Wagner her constitutional right to make full answer and defence.
  • He denied Wagner her right to rely on Section 37 of the Criminal Code, which permits “everyone” to come to the third-party defence and rescue of any human being (in this case, the preborn) facing imminent assault.
  • He decided the factual basis of Wagner’s constitutional arguments was a waste of the court’s time and that no purpose would have been served by having an evidentiary hearing on her Charter application because, in the current state of Canadian law, it had no possibility of success.
  • He misapplied case law and prejudged the case, “giving rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias and impeding the legal evolution of the law to adapt to new circumstances, knowledge and changed societal values and morals.”
  • He accepted the Crown’s submission that it is beyond the jurisdiction of the courts to question the jurisdiction of Parliament legally to define “human being” in any manner Parliament sees fit.
  • He ruled Section 223 of the Criminal Code is not beyond the powers of Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
  • He ruled Section 223 of the Criminal Code does not violate the Preamble to, as well as Sections 7, 11(d), 15 and 26, of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
  • He denied Wagner standing to raise a constitutional challenge to the validity of Section 223 of the Criminal Code.
  • He ruled that Section 223 of the Criminal Code applied generally throughout the entire Criminal Code and used it to deny unborn human beings the benefit of equal protection as born human beings under Section 37 of the Criminal Code.
  • He denied the production and disclosure of third-party records in the possession of the “Women’s Care Clinic” abortion site, although the records were required to prove Wagner was justified in using reasonable force in the form of oral and written words to try to persuade pregnant mothers from killing their unborn children by abortion.
  • He denied Wagner the defence of Section 37 of the Criminal Code by ruling unborn children did not come within the scope of human beings eligible to be protected by a third party.
  • He ruled Wagner did not come within the scope of Section 37 because she was found to be non-violent (in that she did not use physical force).
  • He ruled the unborn children Wagner was trying to rescue were not under her protection.
  • He denied Wagner the common-law defences of necessity and the rescue of third parties in need of protection.
  • He denied Wagner public funding to make full answer and defence for a constitutional test case of great public importance and national significance.
  • He imposed an unconstitutional sentence upon Wagner by, in effect, imposing an injunction as a condition of probation, contrary to her constitutional rights of free speech, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion.

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Among the orders Lugosi is seeking are:

  • That an appeal be allowed against conviction on all counts and that a verdict of acquittal be entered on all counts,
  • That Section 223 of the Criminal Code be found unconstitutional  and contrary to Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982, as well as the unwritten constitution of Canada,
  • That the sentence be declared unconstitutional and contrary to Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982, and the unwritten constitution of Canada or that a new trial be conducted, with Wagner permitted to make full answer and defence, be given standing to make a constitutional attack on Section 223 of the Criminal Code, with the admission of expert witnesses,
  • That the Women’s Care Clinic abortion site be made to produce third-party records pertaining to patients seen on August 15, 2012 (when Wagner entered the site),
  • And that there be public funding for two defence counsels at any retrial and for any appeal related to the case.

No date has yet been established for a decision on the appeal or hearings.

A defence fund for Wagner’s case is still raising money. Details on how to contribute to it can be found here.


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