Amendment to Allow Employers to Block HIV Screening?

Mother Jones' Adam Serwer checks in on GOP Sen. Roy Blunt's proposed amendment to the Affordable Care Act, which he says would expand "conscience" exemptions and allow employers to discriminate against someone with HIV or AIDS.

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Sen. Roy Blunt (Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

In a blog entry at Mother Jones, Adam Serwer assesses Missouri Republican Sen. Roy Blunt's proposed amendment to the Affordable Care Act, which he says would expand "conscience" exemptions. Further, Serwer says, it could allow employers to discriminate against someone with HIV or AIDS.

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.

Read Adam Serwer's entire blog entry at Mother Jones.

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