Friday, February 10, 2012

Institutions vs. Individuals

Warning: I’m about to get all political up in here.

While driving to work, instead of learning Japanese like I normally do, I heard a story on NPR about how the Administration* is requiring religiously affiliated institutions, like hospitals and universities, to provide birth control to their employees**. The institutions feel the new rule violates their liberties by forcing them to provide a service they morally oppose. The articles I’ve heard and read make this out to be a religious issue. It’s an issue that involves religious institutions, true, but it’s not really about religious liberties, in my opinion.

The issue is two-fold.

The first deals with the question of institutional versus individual rights. This isn’t about religious institutions, but all collective entities, like corporations***. Do we protect institutional rights at the expense of individual rights? Or do we protect the rights of individuals above all?

The track record is spotty at best, but one similar issue that comes to mind is the smoking ban. When states started to ban smoking in bars and restaurants, one of the key reasons was to protect the health of the waitstaff and bartenders who worked there. The right of the establishment to offer smoking was nullified by the rights of its employees.

The second part of the issue is that healthcare and insurance are tied directly to employment. Let’s not bother with the idea of buying insurance on your own—the two are not even comparable; non-employer insurance is cost prohibitive and only gets more expensive and nightmarish the older and more afflicted a person becomes****. If institutions don’t want to support birth control requirements, or other controversial mandates, they should support universal access to universal healthcare. That way, they can wash their hands of any direct involvement in the health policies of their employees.

That is, as long as they don’t use prescription hand lotion. It’s, unfortunately, not covered by the health plan at this time.

*I’m not going to call it “The Obama Administration”. It’s the Administration until a successor takes over. Then it can have a modifier to distinguish it from other, past administrations.
***Technically, corporations are also considered individuals (although not on this blog)
****Ever tried it? As a freelancer I had the pleasure of buying my own insurance. I quickly became a more cautious person.