Faith and the Affordable Care Act Contraceptive Mandate

The Affordable Care Act contraceptive mandate continues as a significant concern for the religious community. In recent weeks, more organizations have sued the federal government asserting the mandate violates the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.

The Central Issue

The core issue is a Department of Health contraceptive mandate troubles Christian men and womenand Human Services rule.  It states that all health plans must cover all forms of contraception and sterilization approved by the Food and Drug Administration.  There are 20  FDA-approved contraceptive drugs and methods, including four that abortion-inducing.

Businesses face financial penalties if they do not comply with the mandate.  For some, the penalties would be millions of dollars annually.  Several of the plaintiffs note that penalties imposed would be greater than their annual profits.  For them, the choice is violate their faith or close the doors of their businesses.

Men and women of faith believe the contraceptive mandate requires them to act against their faith and conscience. In response to concerns from religious entities, the Obama Administration offered what it called a “fair accommodation” for some religious groups, including denominational entities and churches. However, people do not feel the accommodation extends far enough.

For-profit Plaintiffs

To date, there are 75 lawsuits filed against the federal government related to the contraceptives mandate. Thirty-nine were brought by for-profit businesses owned by men and women of faith.  Courts have ruled on 35 of them. The scorecard on these suits is 30 rulings in favor of the plaintiff business and five favoring the government.

Nonprofit Plaintiffs

We also thought it would be interesting to look at the nonprofit plaintiffs the Department of Health and Human Services says do not qualify as religious entities. Some of them are:

  • Little Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic order founded in 1839.
  • GuideStone Financial Resources, the financial, insurance and retirement benefits division of the Southern Baptist Convention.
  • Colorado Christian University, a non-denominational college in Colorado Springs.
  • Catholic Mutual Relief Society of America
  • Criswell College and Criswell Bible Institute, a Baptist college in Dallas.
  • Belmont Abbey College, a Catholic Benedictine college in North Carolina.
  • Ave Maria University, a Catholic College in Florida.
  • Louisiana College, a Baptist college in Louisiana.
  • Geneva College, a Reformed Presbyterian college in Pennsylvania.
  • Priests for Life.
  • Several Roman Catholic diocese and archdiocese.
  • Catholic Charities of DC.
  • The American Catholic University.
  • Catholic Charities of St. Louis.
  • The University of Notre Dame.

One wonders how the federal government can possibly question the religious purpose of these organizations.

What’s Next?

Two of the for-profit plaintiffs are seeking review by the United States Supreme Court, and the Department of Justice appealed another.  Because appellate courts issued conflicting rulings, many legal experts agree review of the Affordable Care Act contraceptive mandate is likely.

Soter’s Position

At Soter Healthcare, our faith guides our work and the way we live our lives.  We appreciate the sensitivity of issues debated by those who support the contraceptive mandate as well as those who oppose it for religious reasons.  We feel that a couple’s choice about contraception is theirs to make, and so we don’t express an opinion regarding one method over another as respects any other person.

We believe God teaches respect for life from its conception.  As we understand it, four of the contraceptive methods approved by the FDA are abortifacients. Based on our faith, we cannot take part in providing, funding or promoting those methods.

We hope the Supreme Court will uphold the protection for freedom of religious expression contained in the First Amendment. It is one of our nation’s most fundamental principles.

What do you think?

Share your thoughts and comments.

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After Dental Care, What’s Left in Your Wallet?

dental care

This may hurt a little, so I’m going to sedate your wallet.

Have you ever noticed that dental pain often finds its way from your mouth to your wallet?  In the United States, major dental care can cost anywhere from a few hundred to more than $40,000.  When you turn to your dental insurance policy for benefits, you find coverage limits of only a few thousand dollars, leaving you with a bill that can look like the cost of a new car.

Recently, a friend who requires significant dental treatment contacted Soter for help.  In her case, the bill in the US for the treatment she needs is more than $40,000.  Her dental insurance has a $1,500 annual benefit.

We know from experience there are outstanding dental providers in parts of the world; in fact, many of them went to school in the United States and other nations where dental education is excellent.  We know the technology and techniques in the best international dental clinics meet domestic standards.  In fact, some of the best clinics are more up to date than my local dentist.  We know that cost structures are less expensive than in America.  What we had to identify was which providers provided the quality result we, and more importantly you, demand.

Destination care, whether medical or dental, is about quality.  No one, including me, wants to travel to receive substandard care, even if it is less expensive.  The question was where to find providers who could meet our hallmark standards: premier quality, access, affordability and service excellence.  The answer was that very few sources had good information for dental patients.

Once the quality criterion is met, it’s hard to argue with the cost savings, even from premier dental clinics.  A procedure that runs $10,000 in the US can cost as little as $2000 in some places.  Our friend’s $40,000 procedure will be about $17,000, including travel expenses.  She can use her dental insurance and her Health Savings Account to offset some of the expenses too.

Destination dental work is not for everyone.  It’s not a replacement for a dental cleaning or minor services, since the cost of treatment and airfare will exceed what you would pay at home.  But for major treatments, it offers a great option.  Thousands of Americans, Canadians, Aussies and Brits are taking advantage of the opportunity.

Share your dental care experience

We’d love to hear from you.  How large a bill have you faced for dental care?  Have you traveled outside your home country for dental treatment?  Share your experiences, so others can benefit.

Are you ready?

Are you ready to keep more of your hard-earned money and try destination dental care?   Call us at 855-54SOTER or email info@soterhealth.com for more information or a free quote.

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10 Critical Health Insurance Questions You Should Ask Right Now

Health insurance will undergo significant changes in 2014, health insurance questionsand many American families are wondering how to plan for them. Whether you have health insurance through an employer or buy it on your own, here are ten questions you and your family should ask right now.

 

 

Question

Why is it important?

1.

Will health insurance cover my pre-existing medical condition in 2014? Yes, this is one of the good parts of the ACA and will help many American families.

2.

Can I keep my current insurance policy? While this was one of the early promises, there are so many new requirements that you will probably not be able to keep your current policy, especially if you buy   individual insurance, get coverage from a small employer or have a policy that   doesn’t meet the new coverage requirements.

3.

Will my employer offer health insurance in 2014? Small businesses that are not required to offer health insurance may drop coverage due to rising costs.

4.

Will I be able to cover my family? The ACA provides that children up to age 26 be eligible for coverage; however, the law also allows employers to exclude your spouse from their health plan.

5.

Could my employer reduce my hours to avoid offering benefits? Many companies are cutting back the number of hours worked by part-time employees to avoid fines, penalties, and added insurance costs.

6.

Will my doctor be in my health insurance network in 2014? It’s time to ask your doctor.  Many health insurance companies are shrinking their networks under Obamacare.  In addition, the American Medical Association reports many doctors are leaving medicine rather than deal with the ACA’s complicated rules.

7.

What’s going to happen to my premium in 2014? It’s going to increase…in many cases a lot.  You should start planning for a major change in your family budget right now.  Most families buying individual policies   should plan for 75-125% increases. Expect employers to pass along much of the   increased costs of family coverage.

8.

Do I qualify for a federal premium subsidy? If you work for a company that offers health insurance that meets ACA rules, you cannot quality for a subsidy. If you have   individual coverage and your income is more than 400% of the federal poverty   guideline, you cannot qualify for a subsidy.

9.

Might I have to repay the premium subsidy if I receive it? Yes, if you earn more than reported, the ACA says you must repay some or all of your subsidy as tax by April 15 of the following year.

10.

What’s the big deal about contraceptives? The ACA requires health plans to offer coverage for all FDA-approved forms of contraception and sterilization at no cost to policyholders.  This included religious organizations and Christian businesses who believe contraception or certain forms of   abortion-inducing contraceptives violate their faith and conscience.  After two attempts to revise the rule, this remains unresolved.

Did you know the answers for your family?  We invite you to share your thoughts and questions.

For more information on ways you can take advantage of ACA strategies, please contact us at Soter Healthcare.

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What If American Medical Care Ran Air Travel

The American medical care system is often called one of the best in the world.  In some ways, it is a fair observation.  We have greater access to state of the art medical technology than almost any other nation.  Our doctors are skilled and well-trained.  Most communities have access to a hospital.  Major diseases and injuries are treated well, although sometimes we have to travel to get to a specialty hospital or physician.  Oh, and sure, there are some conditions that are better treated in international hospitals, but we don’t really worry about that unless we have one of them.

What about the process we go through to access medical care?  Unfortunately, it’s often not so easy.  We call for an appointment and wait anywhere from days to weeks.  Each time we visit a medical provider, we are asked to fill out forms with the same information as if we’ve never done it before.  When we do see the doctor, he asks a few questions, checks a few things and may refer us to another doctor for whom we have to another few weeks.  We are sent to yet another place for tests, imaging or other diagnostic work, even though we may have just had the same test done last week, then back to the specialist again.  We try to manage the costs of medical care and the impact on out-of-pocket expenses with health insurance by asking about the costs of a procedure only to be told we don’t know because of your insurance coverage.

Have you ever wondered what it would look like if that same system existed in another industry?  Recently, we came across this piece adapted from an article by Jonathan Rauch that shows what might happen if air travel worked like American medical care.

Have you had similar medical care experiences?  What do you think will happen with the millions of newly insured people from the Affordable Care Act? We’d love to hear from you.

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Confused About the Affordable Care Act?

If you Affordable Care Act confusionfind the Affordable Care Act confusing, you aren’t alone. Thousands of business owners and executives are looking for answers.

Regulations are still being developed and published.  Information ranges from  helpful to inaccurate, and it is hard to know which is which.  Deadlines are delayed because information or infrastructure is not ready.  It is confusing.

There are some things that remain clear.  Government at the federal and state levels continue to forge ahead with development of the new health insurance exchanges.  The Employer Shared Responsibility (employer mandate) will become effective in 2014, and employers across the United States are looking for help in understanding how it will apply to them.

Here’s where some of the confusion enters.  The Affordable Care Act uses full-time employees in some of its provisions but full-time equivalent employees in another.  This is especially important when looking at whether a company exceeds the “50 employee” threshold.  Many authors refer to it as 50 full-time employers; however, this is not correct.  The requirement is actually based on full-time equivalent employees.  Consequently, a small business with 45 full-time employees might be subject to the employer mandate if it has enough part-timers to push it over the threshold.  Even then, however, the Affordable Care Act only requires that employers cover full-time employees.

Employers also ask about what the fines and penalties are and how they might apply.  What many people don’t know is there are actually two separate penalties.  One applies where an employer does not provide health insurance.  A separate penalty applies when offered coverage does not meet affordability or minimum value requirements.  In either case, penalties only apply if an employee purchases health insurance through a health insurance exchange.

To help you start cutting through the confusion, we designed some simple, FREE tools to help get you started in finding the answers you need.

For more information or help in assessing the ACA’s effects on your company, contact us at Soter Healthcare.

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OnJanuary 31, 2013, posted in: Uncategorized by