Yesterday, the US Supreme Court decided on a ruling for Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. As with almost everything health care related, emotions reigned and serious discussions were missed. Also missed were opportunities to educate the general population. Ongoing opportunities for real changes that would benefit the general population are also being missed in favor of riding the emotional waves to trounce the opponent in a political victory.
The MinnPost published an editorial from Alissa Light, the director of Family Tree Clinic. In her editorial, Light outlines why contraceptive care is important and why she believes this ruling demonstrates that “our nation continues its collective failure to support women, particularly low-income women, to have true access to the tools to plan their families and ultimately their futures.”
Family Tree Clinic is a Saint Paul based community clinic providing health services. There are other community clinics in the Twin Cities area. Most, if not all, of these clinics provide some form of birth control and contraceptive education on a sliding fee scale. Ms Light’s editorial as well as most of the news coverage for this Supreme Court decision missed an opportunity to educate people that these options are available, with or without insurance coverage.
Another missed opportunity is to let the public know why these community clinics exist. Foundation grants and individual donations fund community clinics. Social media was filled with anger regarding this court decision, with blasts from people swearing to boycott Hobby Lobby. In reality, those people probably aren’t even Hobby Lobby customers. If these people really believed in the cause, they would make donations to community clinics like Family Tree Clinic and encourage others to do the same, foregoing their rants about Hobby Lobby.
Democrats are surely not missing any opportunity to call for government funded, single payer health care. However, one wonders if Republicans will finally be aware enough to capitalize on this issue themselves.
On the one hand, this seems like an issue that resolved in a way that Republican politicians can be satisfied. Many Republicans shared Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s sentiments. He issued a press release stating that the decision "makes clear that the Obama administration cannot trample on the religious freedoms that Americans hold dear."
On the other hand, Republicans have yet to sell voters on their own ideas for health care. During the 2008 Presidential campaign, Republicans campaigned on health insurance portability. Yet, when the Affordable Care Act was being passed, Republicans were silent on the issue. They seemed unable to work with the President and the Democrats to incorporate their own ideas into the law.
So, now the Affordable Care Act is law and parts of it are starting to go into effect. Will the Hobby Lobby decision affect how Republicans campaign?
Campaigning Republicans, like Mike McFadden who is running for Al Franken’s seat, have ideas. One idea is to revisit health insurance portability and allow consumers more choices in health insurance. One way would be to allow employees to purchase insurance outside of the employer’s offering with pre-tax dollars. This would allow employees in situations like those at Hobby Lobby to buy any insurance they want, covering anything they want it to cover. A more “free market approach” toward “health insurance for all” could resonate with voters.
A final opportunity that may be missed through this ruling is the competitive possibilities that a ruling like this opens. Hobby Lobby offers health insurance that has limited coverage. What benefits do competitors offer? Could employers broaden their array of insurance options to attract loyal employees? Could more employers publicize their benefit offerings in a way that increases their customer base just as Starbucks works to publicize its benefit package (free tuition) toward a bigger share of the latte market?
It seems that the possible positive outcomes to the Hobby Lobby decision are quickly turning into missed opportunities. Americans are quick with their emotions and have a difficult time navigating through rhetoric toward positive results.