Could the Blunt Amendment Allow Employers to Block HIV Screening?

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


The Weekly Standard‘s John McCormack insists that my piece a few days ago on Sen. Roy Blunt’s (R-Mo.) amendment, which would expand “conscience” exemptions in the Affordable Care Act, is inaccurate. He maintains that it would not allow health care providers or employers to deny certain services or treatments:

Can Democrats cite real examples of Christian businessmen denying AIDS treatment or screenings prior to Obamacare’s passage? No, they can’t. Because that never happened. (Though you can find countless examples of Christians setting up ministries specifically devoted to providing care to AIDS patients.) Furthermore, the conscience bill would not let employers decide by themselves to ban coverage of specific services. If an employer wanted to target AIDS victims who work for him, he would have to find an insurance company that specifically denied treatment for AIDS. Does such an insurance company exist in the United States of America?

McCormack writes that “the conscience bill would not let employers decide by themselves to ban coverage of specific services.” Except, that’s exactly what the bill says it would do. It states that “a health plan shall not be considered to have failed to provide [Essential Health Benefits or Preventive Services]” if it fails to cover the service or benefit because “providing coverage…of such specific items or services is contrary to the religious beliefs or moral convictions of the sponsor, issuer, or other entity offering the plan.” Moreover, employers frequently set up their own insurance plans and then pay insurance companies to administer them—more than half of workers were covered by such plans, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute. So employers wouldn’t have to find an insurance company that denied treatment for services or benefits mandated under the Affordable Care Act. They could design their own. 

McCormack further expresses utter disbelief that an employer or an insurance company would deny treatment to someone who has HIV or AIDS. There is actually a long history of employment discrimination cases involving employers either using this pretense to fire employees whose health care costs are expected to skyrocket on the basis of having HIV/AIDS or insurance companies denying benefits, and they’re hardly just a thing of the past. On the one hand, it’s a sign of progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS that McCormack finds the idea of this unconscionable; on the other hand, there was an Academy Award winning film starring Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington on the subject, so it’s the kind of history he should be aware of. 

FOLLOW THE MONEY

Corporations and billionaires don’t fund journalism like ours that exists to shake things up. Instead, support from readers allows Mother Jones to call it like it is without fear, favor, or false equivalence.

And right now, a longtime friend of Mother Jones has pledged an incredibly generous gift to inspire—and double—giving from online readers. That's huge! Because you can see that our fall fundraising drive is well behind the $325,000 we need to raise. So if you agree that in-depth, fiercely independent journalism matters right now, please support our work and help us raise the money it takes to keep Mother Jones charging hard. Your gift, and all online donations up to $94,000 total, will be matched and go twice as far—but only until the November 9 deadline.

$400,000 to go: Please help us pick up the pace!

payment methods

FOLLOW THE MONEY

Corporations and billionaires don’t fund journalism like ours that exists to shake things up. Instead, support from readers allows Mother Jones to call it like it is without fear, favor, or false equivalence.

And right now, a longtime friend of Mother Jones has pledged an incredibly generous gift to inspire—and double—giving from online readers. That's huge! Because you can see that our fall fundraising drive is well behind the $325,000 we need to raise. So if you agree that in-depth, fiercely independent journalism matters right now, please support our work and help us raise the money it takes to keep Mother Jones charging hard. Your gift, and all online donations up $94,000 total, will be matched and go twice as far—but only until the November 9 deadline.

$400,000 to go: Please help us pick up the pace!

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate