Friday, July 04, 2014

Hobby Lobby @ C4SS, and Some Thoughts on Words

Four pieces by people associated with the Center for a Stateless Society on the US Supreme Court's decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby:

"Dissecting Hobby Lobby," an op-ed by David S. D'Amato
"Hobby Lobby -- a Question of Agency," a feature article by Kevin Carson
"Hobby Lobby Ruling Falls Short," a Future of Freedom Foundation article by Sheldon Richman
"A Quick Thought on SCOTUS, Hobby Lobby and the Affordable Care Act," a blog post by me

Some thoughts on words ...


"Health coverage" and other terms of art are finally starting to replace the word "insurance." That's a good thing, but "insurance" is still used far too often and is completely inaccurate.

"Insurance" is a pool of hedged bets that the bettors don't want to win. It's payment of small premiums against the possibility of unlikely, but expensive, outcomes. Just as an example, your house is very unlikely to burn down, but it would be very expensive if it did. So you and others purchase "fire insurance." It doesn't cost a lot, but it's worth it because if your house does burn down, the insurance company pays you a large amount of money to replace it. The insurance company makes money because it calculates the risk and sets the premiums such that the entire amount it's taking in from all those people exceeds the amounts it will pay out to the few people whose houses burn down.

What we have in health care these days, and have had for decades, is not for the most part "insurance." It's "pre-paid health care." We pay a premium, and we expect the company we pay that premium to to cover routine expenses like annual physicals, doctor visits for the flu, etc. Yes, there is an "insurance" angle in that we're also covered for less likely but more expensive things like cancer, heart attacks and so on, but mostly we're just paying in advance for stuff we should have just bought at point of sale. And the company collecting the premiums has to take in more money than it pays out or it will just go out of business.


"Contraception" is medication which prevents conception (fertilization of an egg resulting in pregnancy).

You may be under the impression that Hobby Lobby objected to the ObamaCare requirement that it cover contraception in its employee health plan. In point of fact, Hobby Lobby covered no fewer than 16 forms of contraception in its health plan.

It refused to cover two medications ("Plan B" and "EllaOne") and three intrauterine devices ("Paragard," "Mirena" and "Skyla") which it held were not "contraception" -- or at least not just contraception but also "abortifacients" (which would kill fertilized eggs, thus constituting early-term abortion).

Supporters of abortion rights have been trying very hard in recent years to re-define "contraception" to include early term abortifacients under the label "emergency contraception." In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, they seem to have proceeded to the next step: Dropping the "emergency" descriptor.

The ultimate goal there is pretty obvious. Most people have no problem with "contraception." A lot of people have a problem with "abortion." So if some instances of the latter can successfully be falsely categorized as the former, they can be removed from the abortion debate.


This one's been subject to political re-definition for a long time. "Access" used to mean that something was available. These days it's more often used in its negative form ("denial of access") to mean "no one else is forced to buy it for me."

The Supreme Court's decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby didn't have any impact at all on its employees' "access" to the five medications/devices in question. Those medications/devices are still legal. Those medications/devices are still available. It's just that the person wanting them "accesses" them with his or her own checkbook instead of Hobby Lobby's.

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