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Another glitch in the Affordable Care Act—the kind of drafting error that occurs often in massive legislation and would be easily fixed if we had a functional Congress—has exposed another rift for Republicans. In the scramble to complete the legislation, church-sponsored health plans were not included among the "qualified health plans" that could participate on the exchanges and receive tax credits and apply the subsidies that make health insurance more affordable. That's because these plans aren't available to the general public, only to church employees.

Religious institutions have been lobbying for a fix, and that's where the problem comes in for Republicans: answer to a key constituency and fix the law that they hate, or continue hating the law and fighting for full repeal. So far, they seem to be lining up behind the latter.

Months of outreach to Republican Senate offices by religious leaders have yielded no official GOP support to an appeal from a broad coalition of religious denominations to ensure that church-sponsored health plans can participate in the ACA’s health insurance exchanges. Worse yet, from a partisan Republican point of view, two Democratic senators, Mark Pryor and Chris Coons, were the first responders to this call, introducing legislation late last week. Pryor is widely viewed as the GOP’s number one senatorial target in 2014. [...]

Religious groups have sought this fix since at least 2011, and several sources say that at least half a dozen Republican Senate offices have been approached for their support, including Sens. Marco Rubio, Lamar Alexander and Dan Coats, but so far to no avail. Emails and calls by the Washington Monthly to Sen. Rubio’s and Alexander’s offices were not returned.

Among the religious institutions lobbying for the fix—the Southern Baptist Convention, which informed its clergy of the issue at its annual meeting last week, and will be joining the lobbying effort behind the Pryor/Coons bill. So the GOP is going to be under increasing pressure to figure this one out: do the right thing by an important constituency and actually make government and Obamacare work, or keep the crazies happy and let the religious right lump it.

Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Mon Jun 17, 2013 at 05:05 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (113+ / 0-)

    "The NSA’s capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything. [...] There would be no place to hide."--Frank Church

    by Joan McCarter on Mon Jun 17, 2013 at 05:05:38 PM PDT

  •  Hmmm (8+ / 0-)

    I would assume that the church-sponsored plans would have to observe the rules regarding access to contraceptive services and other health resources those churches disapprove of?  They certainly should, if they're lining up for public money just like secular plans.  

    If the churches are fine with oral contraceptives and therapeutic abortions for the health of the mother, they're exposing themselves as the biggest hypocrites on the face of the planet.  Yet again.  If they're not fine with it, then Mark Pryor and Chris Coons should tell them to go screw, and talk to the Republicans about their problems.

    We have always been at war with al Qaeda.

    by Dallasdoc on Mon Jun 17, 2013 at 05:11:49 PM PDT

    •  No, they're churches and therefore exempt. (4+ / 0-)

      That's already in the law.  And if not, you can damn well be sure the Blunt Amendment will find its way in this bill.

      "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

      by zenbassoon on Mon Jun 17, 2013 at 05:14:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Not ALL churches are right-wing, remember... (9+ / 0-)

      I do hate when we lump all of them together...

      I personally think that there are lots of really cool church secretaries and music directors who deserve quality health care and insurance to help cover it.

      This issue is bigger than the religious bigots who are caught between a rock and a hard place... Let's look at the whole picture.

      Our country can survive war, disease, and poverty... what it cannot do without is justice.

      by mommyof3 on Mon Jun 17, 2013 at 08:11:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  But the church doesn't have to make (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        True North, Dallasdoc, splashy

        Their own health insurance plan in order to offer that good insurance to their employees. The insurers in the exchange are available to them. It's only churches that want to create specialized health plans that exclude certain coverages that want to be able to add their own custom plans to the exchange.

        •  That's not true at all. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          radical simplicity
          It's only churches that want to create specialized health plans that exclude certain coverages that want to be able to add their own custom plans to the exchange.
          I know that the clergy/staff health plan for the Episcopal Church, one of the denominations calling for this change, doesn't try to exclude any kind of coverage—and particularly not birth control or contraceptive services, which is what I'm sure you're alluding too here. They just want to stay with their own current plans rather than making their clergy and staff change to the exchange plans.

          "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

          by JamesGG on Tue Jun 18, 2013 at 07:25:06 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  They are exempt - but I doubt these churches care (4+ / 0-)

      This issue is being raised by the Southern Baptists, Methodists, Episcopalians, and Presbyterians. None of those groups, to my knowledge, forbid birth control by their members or pastors. They would frown on extramarital sex, but they can just fire employees for that with impunity anyway.

      Speaking of exempt - I have a big issue with Pryor's blog post where he states that churches should get tax credits for sponsoring employee health care plans. Those who are exempt from taxes should also be exempt from tax credits or refunds, and that principle guides a lot of really weird twists in federal employee benefit law - churches and nonprofits are barred from traditional offerings and get carefully crafted alternates that avoid employer tax issues altogether (e.g. 403(b) plans instead of 401(k) plans.)

      I'm fine with it if they call it a subsidy, or tailor it in a way that treats the employer contribution as part of salary and offers appropriate tax reductions for the employee to equalize treatment with private-sector employees.

      I'm not fine if they find a way to offer tax rebates to organizations that don't pay taxes.

      ad astra per alia porci

      by harrije on Mon Jun 17, 2013 at 10:06:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Southern Baptists might (0+ / 0-)

        After all, they love their teens getting pregnant, because then they can use their children against the girls/women to make them toe the line.

        Women create the entire labor force. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Sympathy is the strongest instinct in human nature. - Charles Darwin

        by splashy on Tue Jun 18, 2013 at 11:37:53 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Since the Midterm is the Next Election, They'll (5+ / 0-)

    probably go with the crazies.

    If the Republicans are capable of any moderation or outreach in this era, we'll probably see it in 2015.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Mon Jun 17, 2013 at 05:15:19 PM PDT

  •  The fundies caused this problem let them suffer (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    the consequences of what they did.

    Isn't that a Republican fundie mantra?

  •  This is a tough one (9+ / 0-)

    considering if the Church folk hadn't sinned in the first place, they wouldn't be sick and need ObamaCare.

    OTOH, it's intriguing that the GOP is going to have to EXPAND ObamaCare to satiate their crazy base.


  •  These church-sponsored plans cover... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    nuclear winter solstice

    ...more than just the denomination execs and staff, right? I suspect that lay members who are business owners, farmers, etc. get to join these insurance groups and so avoid individual rate premiums.

    This could be unavoidably big.

    When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative. --Martin Luther King Jr.

    by Egalitare on Mon Jun 17, 2013 at 05:41:21 PM PDT

    •  I don't think that's what they mean (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      phonegery, grover, True North

      I think they are just for insurance policies offered to church employees, i.e. to clergy or administrative staff. I've never heard of a church sponsoring a group insurance plan for members.

      •  What would make it different from... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        radical simplicity

        ...many other mutual associations? NFIB I know for certain offers the option of pooling individual business so they can get group rather than individual rates.

        Some denominations and independent Mega Churches are massive and have "auxiliaries" that are normally the realm of private businesses: catering, transportation, child care, etc.

        What would be "out of bounds" about creating an insurance group "umbrella" of morally upstanding folks?

        When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative. --Martin Luther King Jr.

        by Egalitare on Mon Jun 17, 2013 at 06:00:36 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  our group insurance rep (11+ / 0-)

    nothing to do with the church aspect, but it's amusing hearing our insurance rep give dire predictions about when the ACA kicks in completely and how they don't know what the new group rates will be for next year, just that they'll be "a lot higher." (if they don't know what the rates will be, how do they KNOW they'll be a lot higher? If more people have insurance and are paying into the pool, shouldn't they actually be lower? Their logic boggles.)

    Anthem (Blue Cross) has been sending out a flurry of snail mails and emails over the past year, so much so I can't even keep up with them all. It's like they're deliberately trying to drown me in paperwork and notices. Our group insurance plan is small - we have less than 10 people on it. I can't even imagine what big group administrators are getting.

    "Watch what you say or they'll be calling you a radical, a liberal, fanatical, criminal..."-7.75, -5.54

    by solesse413 on Mon Jun 17, 2013 at 05:42:34 PM PDT

  •  "Church plans exempt from ERISA regulations, (2+ / 0-)
    including the immunization amendments"

  •  All theatre (4+ / 0-)

    and not even the usual medieval mystery play genre.

    Without their fundamentalist base the Republican Party is nothing and health care touches far too many of them to risk the loss.  The plutocrats don't really care about anything other than a vehicle to destroy effective government so I don't believe any of it is a real problem and it'll get enough coverage bashing Obamacare that they'll milk it for that reason.

    More matter, with less art. Hamlet, 2. 2

    by blueoasis on Mon Jun 17, 2013 at 06:29:06 PM PDT

  •  wow! There's an issue. (0+ / 0-)

    Candidates gotta work that in swing House districts. Strike that all House districts. If we can win messaging on Obamacare (given the big insurance giveaway it's distasteful) then the House polls start looking better a year from now.

    If you didn't like the news today, go out and make some of your own.

    by jgnyc on Mon Jun 17, 2013 at 08:19:03 PM PDT

    •  If anything goes wrong, Republicans will just (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JerryNA, ColoTim

      blame President Obama.  Too few people pay attention to the facts, especially wingers.

      “The future depends entirely on what each of us does every day.” Gloria Steinem

      by ahumbleopinion on Mon Jun 17, 2013 at 08:37:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Even if nothing goes wrong, they'll still make up (0+ / 0-)

        outrages and blame Obama and the Democrats.  This big of a program, however, there will be some warts and mistakes made.  Yet instead of trying to improve it, they'll work to repeal everything because they're that hysterically anti-government.

  •  Is there no one in their Party who (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    chrississippi, TexasTom, grover

    puts just common human decency above partisan talking-points? No one?

    And even if there were one or five, they'd be awful danged lonely.

    Actual Democrats is the surest, quickest, route to More Democrats

    by Jim P on Mon Jun 17, 2013 at 08:22:17 PM PDT

  •  Easy one for Republicans.... (0+ / 0-)

    ...they've already shown that they could care less about constituents.  This particular constituency is probably impossible to lose.  The Republican goal is sabotage over service.

    The renewed push against the "War on Christmas" should bring the uninsured church members back into the fold.

    If you hate government, don't run for office in that government.

    by Bensdad on Mon Jun 17, 2013 at 09:04:40 PM PDT

  •  Well, of course (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    None of them voted for Mitt Romney and Bob Dole's health care plan, so why would they change their mind now?

    "Victory means exit strategy, and it's important for the president to explain to us what the exit strategy is." - George W Bush

    by jfern on Mon Jun 17, 2013 at 09:47:18 PM PDT

  •  Biggest issue to be addressed (0+ / 0-)

    Medicaid Clawback.  O'care throws the over 55 and unemployed into the collateral loan and death tax on estates that is a key feature of Medicaid.  A tab is started for expenses including monthly insurance and all other services.
    Your estate will be liened for those costs.
    Of course there is an easy fix: just lower the eligibility for Medicare single payer to 55 or even better, to 0!

    •  What do you mean? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I haven't heard about this.

      Women create the entire labor force. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Sympathy is the strongest instinct in human nature. - Charles Darwin

      by splashy on Tue Jun 18, 2013 at 11:41:13 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks for Asking! (0+ / 0-)

        Arizona is up front about the clawback, even warning that your assets are at risk.

        Before enrolling in ALTCS, if an applicant or family member is concerned about AHCCCS’ claim that will be filed against the estate, the applicant and/or family member should evaluate the financial benefits of enrolling the applicant in ALTCS. Because ALTCS payments made on the member’s behalf can exceed the actual costs of services provided, and accrue even if no medical service is provided, it is very important that ALTCS applicants (and family members) make an informed decision about enrolling in ALTCS. This is especially true for those ALTCS applicants who elect to remain in their own home and do not enter a nursing home. The applicant and family member should review whether it is better financially and medically for the applicant to pay for his/her needed medical services out-of-pocket (what won’t be paid by Medicare and/or other insurance) rather than enrolling in ALTCS and incurring a claim against their estate. Individuals who do not require many medical services may not wish to enroll in ALTCS because their estate will be responsible for payment to AHCCCS of all ALTCS payments that are listed in question 5 above.
        An ALTCS applicant may voluntarily withdraw his/her ALTCS application. An ALTCS enrolled member may elect to stop ALTCS enrollment at any time, to stop accruing additional AHCCCS capitation and other costs that will be included in AHCCCS’ claim against the estate.
        Both the insurance (privatized Medicaid) and the lien collection at death are privatized for optimum extraction.

        This is a feature incorporated into O'care.  Here is Washington State.

        By law, Washington State may recover (be paid back) payments DSHS made for all Medicaid and long-term care services you received prior to your death. Payment is taken from the your estate (assets you owned or had an interest in at the time of death). This is called Estate Recovery.
        Washington State will recover the cost of all Medicaid-funded services (federal and state-funded programs) and long-term care services from age 55, including:
        • Doctor visits
        • Hospital stays
        • Prescription drugs
        • Medical equipment
        • All other medical services
        • Nursing home services
        • Waivers services (COPES and New Freedom) • Medicaid personal care services
        • Adult day health
        • Private duty nursing
        • Managed care premiums
        This is true for every state.  It's been under the radar for most of us, but now the reality is near.
        •  And yet they don't want a "death tax" (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Which is basically what this is.

          Yeah, we can't have medical care that doesn't bankrupt people, no way.

          Women create the entire labor force. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Sympathy is the strongest instinct in human nature. - Charles Darwin

          by splashy on Thu Jun 20, 2013 at 10:17:59 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  A Generational Thing Too. (0+ / 0-)

            Notice the "tab" does not start until you are 55+.  I guess us old folks were assumed to be Hillary supporters!  Thrown under the bus like this, I think many will stay home in future elections.  On the other hand, younger voters may not care, unless the family home is now beyond their grasp.
            I live near Canada, in Bellingham WA.  My neighbors to the North are aghast when this is explained to them.  There is no clawback in Canada, no copays, no deductibles, one good standard of care for all.  No insurance rentiers taking 30% in fees and commissions.
            We need Single Payer now.

  •  aren't they just self-insured? (0+ / 0-)

    That is, don't they contract with an actual insurer to do all the work while taking on a portion of the risk so as to reduce premiums for their workers?
    Certainly they aren't administering the plans, negotiating with providers, etc. etc. that our wonderful (~) health insurance companies do, are they? I don't get it.

  •  That'll be tough to fix. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Because every time the House votes to repeal the ACA, they all REALLY THINK they've repealed it.  Then they forget they repealed it, so they vote to repeal it again and...repeat.

    So in their minds the ACA doesn't exist.

    A dilemma.


  •  Why would any fertile woman want a church plan (0+ / 0-)

    After all, it would likely restrict what she could get with it.

    Hopefully they would be labeled as such, so women could avoid them.

    Women create the entire labor force. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Sympathy is the strongest instinct in human nature. - Charles Darwin

    by splashy on Tue Jun 18, 2013 at 11:35:23 AM PDT

  •  So... why... (0+ / 0-)

    ...should they be eligible for the tax credits and subsidies if they're not open to everyone? Or, will they be open to everyone if they're on the exchange?

    I have no problem with making them count as "coverage" so that their members don't get dinged with the individual responsibility fee. Unless everyone can join, I'm not sure why the public should subsidize them, though.

    Can someone explain?

  •  The churches are screwed (0+ / 0-)

    And this goes back to the Reagan era when the "christians" were promised everything, threw their support behind GOP leaders to get them elected, and then were kicked in the teeth for their efforts. Promise them the world, get their votes and then laugh at them. Sadly, they never learn.

  •  I thought Obamacare health insurance (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    True North

    exchanges had to be a pool of companies that would offer insurance to all people. If the religious ones only allow religious people to apply, doesn't this violate the premise of the health care exchanges in the first place?

    Isn't this an example of government endorsing religious exclusionary behavior?

    •  Excellent questions--maybe not selling insurance? (0+ / 0-)

      Good questions.

      I followed the link in the quoted part of the diary.

      What they want has been described as having their health plans be considered "qualified" health plans. The article refers to small employer tax credits and subsidies.

      So I wonder if the real issue is getting their insurance coverage recognized as being essential minimum insurance when people file their tax returns. You only get the tax credit/subsidy if you've got the right kind of insurance.

      The churches may not be trying to get into the exchanges in the sense of selling insurance to others.

      I don't know why a tax-exempt organization would need tax credits, but clearly employees of churches would like to report that they have the kind of coverage that counts--and lets you get your tax credits/subsidies.

      I assume that any policy you get through an exchange is good enough.

      •  Gee, religious institutions and their (0+ / 0-)

        employees trying to double dip on tax perks? What a surprise!

        •  Not necessarily the employees (0+ / 0-)

          The question is: if you get health insurance through your employer, are you eligible to get the subsidy?

          If at least some people are--ones without generous employer-provided benefits, perhaps--then they need to have the right kind of insurance, stamped with the seal of approval.

          Those employees would be getting the same as anybody else with income at a particular level.

          They would just be put in the same position as employees who work for companies and not churches.

          Small businesses get tax credits for providing health care--but I don't see why a tax-exempt organization needs tax credits. Do you file, showing you owe no money, but then get a refund?

          •  Good question.. (0+ / 0-)

            All I know is that many churches include their organ players, choir directors and even janitors in their list of personnel necessary for the functioning of the church. Then these people, along with the pastor get tax benefits. Not sure if that affects health insurance issues. I even know of one church where the retired pastor is being listed as a "consultant" so that he still gets some exemption benefits.   It's all such a scam on the taxpayers and there is no oversight.

  •  I'm writing my Senators. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    LUMP IT!

  •  What makes this a glitch? (0+ / 0-)

    If there is a religious test of any kind involved in getting the policy, and since they are only for members of religious groups, there obviously is such a test, they should not qualify for the exchanged, nor any tax credits or subsidies.

    Workers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your shackles. It is by the picket line and direct action that true freedom will be won, not by electing people who promise to screw us less than the other guy.

    by rhonan on Wed Jun 19, 2013 at 11:53:44 PM PDT

  •  No matter. Conservatives can always be mollified (0+ / 0-)

    with a good dose of that ol' Fox News Propaganda.

    I'm starting to wonder what Fox News can't convince their watchers of. If Rupert Murdoch ever ends up going to jail, he should get Ailes to convince the male viewers to emasculate themselves, like the Haley Boppers.

  •  Why the hell should church-sponsored plans (0+ / 0-)

    be included in a non-religious setting?  If they are restricted to church members only they have absolutely no business being in the exchanges.  If they do not include coverage for contraception or abortion or other standardly required things they not only should not be there but should be decertified as insurance plans.  We need to have LESS religion in government and public life, not more.  Ideally zero.

    Republican threats amount to destroying the present if we don't allow them to destroy the future too. -MinistryOfTruth, 1/1/2013

    by sleipner on Thu Jun 20, 2013 at 10:24:36 AM PDT

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