ObamaCare

President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform is simultaneously raising the cost of insurance and cutting the work week for college graduates, thereby making it more difficult for college students and recent grads to acquire affordable healthcare and earn a living, studies show.

For example, in Missouri, the price of health care is reaching stratospheric levels.

Show-Me Institute policy analyst Patrick Ishmael, using a Forbes’ insurance rate aggregator, found that a 27 year-old man in Buchanan County can expect an individual insurance policy rate increase of a whopping 411 percent, a number likely to increase for those younger than 27.

Indeed, Missouri has the highest insurance rate increases for young men in the country, Forbes reports.

The numbers are a sobering reminder of the impact that President Obama’s signature legislature – the Affordable Care Act – is having on insurance policies for young people. Obama’s critics have, since the ACA’s creation, warned that the law would drive up the cost of insurance – now critics have been proven correct.

“Among men, the county with the greatest increase in insurance prices from 2013 to 2014 was Buchanan County, Missouri, about 45 miles north of Kansas City: 271 percent,” according to Forbes’ number cruncher Avik Roy.

His overall analysis of 3,137 counties found Obamacare increased individual-market premiums by an average of 49 percent. The numbers were culled using Forbes’ national rate navigator, which allows people to see what Obamacare is doing to insurance rates in their section of the country.

In short, the cost of health care more than tripled over the course of a year, leading some to question whether the cost might be higher for a young professional just out of college.

Obamacare advocates have argued that expanding Medicaid can stem the skyrocketing cost of health care.

To wit, earlier this year, the University of Missouri reported that Missouri would lose out on $1.13 billion in federal funding to expand Medicaid – and thereby fully implementing Obamacare in the state this year to an additional 300,000 Missourians. The University of Missouri used research from a University of Missouri School of Medicine 2012 policy analysis  to generate those numbers.

According to Sidney Watson, a professor at Saint Louis University’s School of Law and a health care specialist, the expansion “would have created 24,000 new jobs and saved hundreds of others.”

“Not passing this will also very severely hurt our economy, leading to lost jobs and economic activity — we have already seen over 1,000 jobs lost and more jobs will be lost,” Tim McBride, health policy analyst and professor at Washington University, also told the St. Louis Business Journal.

But in reality, the cost of Medicaid expansion to the state of Missouri, Ishmael posits, in the event that it passes, would be a loser for state’s taxpayers and recipients in general.

Indeed, according to a blog post by the Show-Me Institute, the Kaiser Family Foundation found that if Missouri had expanded Medicaid under the ACA, “the state would spend more than $1 billion between 2013 and 2022 on just the newly eligible enrollees. In addition, the state would spend another $1.6 billion over that period on currently eligible enrollees who would come into the program as a result of the government’s enrollment push.”

College Fix contributor Christopher White is a University of Missouri graduate student and an editorial assistant for The College Fix.

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The Department of Justice’s “accommodation” for religious colleges and other nonprofits who seek to avoid the contraceptive mandate – the basis of its argument to the Supreme Court to not extend the Hobby Lobby decision to evangelical Wheaton College – runs aground on Wheaton’s own “community covenant” document.

That’s according to veteran religion journalist Terry Mattingly, who directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities.

He writes on his Get Religion blog that the Wheaton covenant requires members of the community to

“uphold chastity among the unmarried (1 Cor. 6:18) and the sanctity of marriage between a man and woman (Heb. 13:4).” …

Must the college cooperate in offering its students and unmarried employees — in violation of its own doctrines — all FDA-approved forms of contraception, sterilizations and even “morning-after pills”? …

The groups in this second, doctrinally defined ministry category are, in effect, asking that the government allow their voluntary associations to defend their own teachings when dealing with members of their own communities.

The issue boils down to whether religious institutions like Wheaton have to “encourage” behavior that violates their beliefs, Mattingly says, quoting a Christianity Today report:

Some cases ask for broader exceptions than Hobby Lobby and Conestoga did. For instance, the court document granting an injunction to the Catholic Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) notes that “The Network refuses to provide, subsidize, or support health insurance that in any way encourages the use of artificial contraception, sterilization, or abortion, all of which it considers ‘grave sin.’”

Read the whole blog post here.

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The Department of Justice is trying to stop the religious-freedom logic of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby contraceptive-mandate case from spreading to religious colleges and other nonprofits seeking the same exemption.

The Associated Press reports that DOJ asked the Supreme Court Wednesday to turn down Wheaton Colleges’s request to get itself out of any complicity in the provision of “objectionable contraception”:

The issue in the lawsuits filed by Wheaton and other nonprofit groups is different because the administration already has allowed them to opt out of paying for the objectionable contraception by telling the government that doing so would violate their religious beliefs.

But they must fill out Form 700 that enables their insurers or third-party administrators to take on the responsibility of paying for the birth control. The employer does not have to arrange the coverage or pay for it. Insurers get reimbursed by the government through credits against fees owed under other provisions of the health care law.

The fight is over completing the form, which the nonprofits say violates their religious beliefs because it forces them to participate in a system to subsidize and distribute the contraception. …

“The decision in Hobby Lobby rested on the premise that these accommodations ‘achieve all of the Government’s aims’ underlying the preventive-health services coverage requirement ‘while providing greater respect for religious liberty,’” the Justice Department said, quoting from Justice Samuel Alito’s majority opinion.

Read the full article here.

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Slew of lower-court cases on hold pending Supreme Court’s ruling in Hobby Lobby

Backers of religious freedom for Christian universities cheered the Supreme Court’s ruling Monday that “closely held for-profit corporations” like Hobby Lobby can claim a religious exemption from the Affordable Care Act’s so-called contraceptive mandate.

While the ruling does not guarantee a victory in the lower courts for universities challenging the mandate on religious grounds, religious freedom proponents are hopeful the courts will rule in favor of the universities.

Under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), the federal government can “substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion” only when there is a “compelling government interest” and it is the “least restrictive means” of achieving the government’s purpose.

Writing for the 5-4 majority, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that providing contraception can be in the government’s interest, but forcing businesses to provide it “plainly fails” the least-restrictive-means test.

Injunctions Now, Vindication Soon?

Because the court ruled the federal government has other ways of providing contraception without requiring businesses to pay for them, religious universities may also qualify for that exemption.

Six of the schools represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty – which also represented Hobby Lobby – have been granted injunctions against the mandate, including Union University, Colorado Christian University and Houston Baptist University.

Colorado Christian was the most recent plaintiff to prevail. A federal judge in Denver issued an injunction in late June, saying the mandate violated RFRA.

religiousfreedom.AmericanLifeLeague.FlickrMany federal courts were waiting to rule on challenges to the mandate until after the Supreme Court ruled.  For example, the College of the Ozarks and Belmont Abbey College both have pending cases in courts waiting to hear from the Supreme Court in the Hobby Lobby case.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said in a press release he was meeting with the other plaintiff in the case, Mennonite-owned Conestoga Wood Specialties, when the Supreme Court ruling was announced.

“While we celebrate this landmark decision, it is our hope that lower courts will follow the Supreme Court’s lead and protect non-profits like Little Sisters of the Poor, Priests for Life, and Wheaton College” from the mandate, Perkins said.

Wheaton lost its anti-mandate argument in federal appeals court in 2012 on the grounds that the government had promised not to enforce the rule until it devised a final accommodation for religious schools like the evangelical Wheaton.

A spokeswoman for the College of the Ozarks told The College Fix the ruling would help it continue its Christian mission in education.

The Council for Christian Colleges and Universities released a statement asking the government to reconsider the regulations in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling and “craft new regulations that fully respect the religious convictions of CCCU institutions.”

‘Significant Game-Changer’

Jonathan Turley, a constitutional expert and law professor at Georgetown, told CNN the ruling was a “significant game-changer” and “huge blow” to the administration.

“This has been an awful 10 days,” with the high court striking down federal programs relating to the Fourth Amendment and warrantless cellphone searches, separation of powers regarding federal appointments, and now the First Amendment religion clause, Turley said. “You just don’t want to get out of bed after a week like that. 

The ruling left open some ambiguities to be sorted out in later court cases, such as what “closely held” means.

Paul Horwitz, who teaches constitutional and religion law at the University of Alabama, told WVTM Birmingham that since the ruling involves the RFRA statute and not the First Amendment directly, it may not help other entities get exemptions from parts of the Affordable Care Act.

“This case gave an answer for one dispute. But that’s all it could possible [sic] do and we can expect some form of this controversy to continue,” Horwitz said.

Brittney Cooper, a professor of women’s and gender studies at Rutgers University, disagreed with the ruling. “No words, other than those of the four-letter variety, for the #scotus right now,” she wrote on Twitter.

College Fix contributor Matt Lamb is a student at Loyola University-Chicago.

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University of South Carolina’s board of trustees has hiked tuition for the upcoming school year to help shoulder new health care and Obamacare implementation costs, expenses they say the public university can’t afford.

The increase of 3.2 percent – about $342 per student – will pay for state-mandated employee pay raises, health and retirement benefits, and Affordable Care Act implementation, campus leaders say.

Implementing Obamacare is estimated to cost the state’s flagship university up to $4.5 million.

“We are now at a critical tipping point,” university President Harris Pastides stated in a campus news release. “The current trajectory is no longer sustainable for our students, parents and taxpayers.”

Campus officials blamed what they called unfunded mandates for the financial crisis, or demands the state and federal government place on the university that come without providing enough cash to pay for those requirements.

“The state is only expected to cover a fraction of the pay increase and associated fringe and health insurance increases for employees,” campus officials stated in a budget breakdown published by The Times and Democrat. “ … The state also provides no funding for mandated increases in employer contribution to retirement or the expected increase due to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.”

President Pastides told the Post and Courier no employees’ hours have been cut to offset the Obamacare employer mandate, which requires colleges to offer employees who work 30-plus hours a week health insurance or pay fines of up to $2,000-per-employee.

In response to the tuition increase, a spokesman for Republican Gov. Nikki Haley’s office told the Post and Courier it’s a “tragedy” the Affordable Care Act prompts financial hardships for students and schools.

Meanwhile, the University of South Carolina’s neighbors to the north are struggling with very similar woes, as leaders of North Carolina’s 17-campus UNC System are grappling with how to pay for unfunded health insurance mandates as well.

“On Thursday, the Board of Governors discussed the challenges with the state’s current health plan that would require all of 17 colleges in the system to pay about $5,400 for each worker’s healthcare plan,” reports the Charolette TWC News. “It would cost about $45 million if the UNC System had to provide health care coverage under the current state health plan.

“There’s no money provided to us or to state agencies to cover this cost,” said Charles Perusse, chief operating officer of the UNC System. “We’re just supposed to absorb it within our budget.”

North Carolina Agriculture and Technical State University’s Chancellor Harold Martin said schools may be forced to cut hours or jobs.

“Inclusive of cutting some of those employees, reducing their hours of work to ensure that we’re able to meet within the cost options available to us our commitment to support our employees,” he said.

At least one federal lawmaker is trying to ease the burden colleges face today as a result of Obamacare.

Republican Sen. John Thune recently introduced legislation that aims to exempt schools and universities from the Obamacare employer mandate that requires them to offer their workers health insurance or pay fines.

Thune, in a statement, said the need is great: “According to reports, some schools across the country are eliminating teaching positions and others are reducing the number of hours teachers and staff can work in order to comply with the health care law’s 30-hour work week.”

“These higher costs for colleges and universities are inevitability passed along to students in the form of higher tuition prices.”

Apparently a case in point is now the University of South Carolina. And as campus leaders pass along the increased costs to students in the form of tuition increases, that hurts students, Republican leaders say.

“Schools around the country are now forced to spend more of their budgets on healthcare, something they cannot afford to do,” Raffi Williams, deputy press secretary of the Republican National Committee, stated in an email. “This will negatively affect the students who are there to get an education so they can achieve the American Dream and find their own success.”

Jennifer Kabbany is associate editor of The College Fix ( @JenniferKabbany )

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The Obamacare contraceptive mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a federal judge in Denver ruled in a closely watched case involving Colorado Christian University.

Details from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represented the school:

In a carefully reasoned opinion, the court ruled that the Health and Human Services Mandate, which would have forced CCU to include drugs like Plan B (the “morning after” pill) and ella (the “week after” pill) in its health care plan, infringes the University’s freedom of religion. The court noted that “[i]f CCU refused to provide health insurance coverage for its employees,” or “did not include the coverages required by the Mandate, CCU would be subject to significant – if not ruinous – financial penalties.” The court then concluded that this pressure on CCU to violate its religious beliefs violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The judge granted the school a preliminary injunction, meaning it “has shown a substantial likelihood that it will prevail on its RFRA claim.”

Read the whole article here.

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