Lesko is the Republican representative of the Arizona House of Representatives who introduced House Bill 2625. The proposal, which has already passed the House, would allow employers to opt out of health insurance coverage of contraception for religious reasons or moral reasons. For the past 10 years, employers of churches and other religious organizations have had that right in the state. Lesko's bill would extend the waiver to Taco Bell owners and auto dealers and anybody else who chooses to opt out.
Women using contraceptives for purposes other than birth control would be covered via a reimbursement arrangement. But with a catch, say critics. The bill would require applicants for reimbursement to prove what the prescriptions are for by opening their medical records to their employers. Which brings up the kicker. The way the bill is written, an employer could discriminate against a woman who was discovered to be obtaining contraception for birth control purposes even if she pays for it herself. For discriminate against, read: "fire."
Lesko says employers wouldn't have access to private medical records. But an expert disagrees. James G. Hodge, an Arizona State University professor who specializes in health law and ethics, says having employers ask for medical confirmation of specific things isn't unusual. They are not subject to privacy requirements of the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accounting Act, he said:
In many cases, an employee already has to plead for coverage of a type of care, such as when an insurer denies coverage and tells the worker to take it up with her employer, he said. “If she wants reimbursement, legally she is going to have to waive privacy interests.”Pummeled by the public outcry over this outrageous invasion of women's privacy as well as concerns expressed by Gov. Jan Brewer (R) and Sen. John McCain (R), the Arizona Senate president pulled the proposed legislation from a Senate committee for a rewrite Monday. Exactly what any new language will say is unclear. Any changes would have be sent back to the House for a revote:
The changes would include reassurances that employers won’t get information about workers’ private health care information, said Cathi Herrod, a leader of an advocacy group for social conservatives that is lobbying for the bill along with Catholic bishops.Lesko, who says she's not Catholic and has "no moral objection against contraceptives," doesn't think many employers will take advantage of bill's provisions. Perhaps not. But one is too many.
She could have avoided all the phone calls and emails and public opprobrium if she'd not chosen to add her voice to the crew of reactionaries who think government should only meddle when it comes to people's most private matters. This bill shouldn't be rewritten, it should be permanently tabled.