New Contraceptive Rules: Tempest in a tea pot.

There has been quite a lot of storm and drang over the Government’s ruling that Catholic Church owned hospitals must offer health insurance plans that cover contraception for their employees, and the subsequent compromise that eliminated the requirement and pushed the payment to the insurance companies. While I agree that the compromise is no compromise at all, I just don’t understand the problem in the first place. It seems to me that there are several ways of looking at this, and none of them rate all the angst being displayed.

First, there is the idea that it is violation of religious freedom. The First Amendment requires that the Government must not favor one religion over another. It does not say that religion must be unregulated. So, granting the exemption would actually be a violation of the 1st Amendment. But we are talking about the regulation of a private business in any case. The ruling just says that these privately owned hospitals must follow the same rules that all other private employers in America must follow. There is no exemption being requested for any other business with a Catholic owner, nor any other business owned by the Catholic Church.

Second, why now? A number of states have already had this same ruling in effect for a long time, and the hospitals in those states have complied. No hospitals have shut down over this in those states and there were no loud protests either.

But really, have you actually thought about what the problem here is? Insurance is historically a way to spread risk between the insured. So, what is being objected to is that the Catholic hospital will put money into a pool along with thousands of other employers, and out of that pool of money the healthcare of 100s of thousands of workers will be paid, and some small percentage of that will be for contraception. The so called compromise is exactly the same and is no compromise at all. However, the alternative that the Catholic hospitals are pushing for and find acceptable is this: The Catholic hospital will put money into a pool along with thousands of other employers, and out of that pool of money the healthcare of 100s of thousands of workers will be paid, and some small percentage of that will be for contraception, except none of it will be paid for the contraception used by the hospital’s own employees. Instead, the hospital will give money directly to those employees in the form of wages, who will in turn pay for their own contraception.

Since insurance companies typically negotiate lower prices on medical goods and services, a larger total amount of money will be paid for this contraception and a larger percentage of the hospitals outlay will go to contraception. And since employees often ask their employers to cash payroll checks, some of the same physical money money that came from the hospital will go to pay for this contraception. And since the money comes out the employees payroll instead of out of the employee’s benefits, the direct effect on the employee is to lower that employee’s standard of living. And this is the plan that the hospitals find acceptable.

In both cases the hospital pays for the contraceptives out of the employee’s money, not their own, the difference being that in one case it is from the benefits payments and the other it is from the payroll. In both cases money left the hospital, went to another party who then paid for the contraceptives. In both cases the choice to use the contraceptive was made by the employee and not the hospital. And in both cases the money paid into the pool will be used to purchase contraception. Tell me, what is the difference?


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  • A site with links to many free technical books, including math, engineering and medical. And unlike most such sites, these really are free and not pirated.

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Oracle to aquire Sun

We just got the word, Oracle will be acquiring Sun. I can’t say exactly why, but this fact does not fill me with the trepidation that the rumors about an IBM acquisition did. Perhaps it is because Sun competed with IBM on so many fronts, that there was no area of Sun that one could point to and say, “IBM will want to preserve that”. With Oracle, though, it is hard to point to anything in Sun and not say “Oracle will want to keep this, it complements what they are trying to do”. Sure there is some overlap, but not all that much and even in those places, it is easy to imagine a plausible scenario where they might want to keep those products on.

That is not to say that Oracle is not likely to abandon some products, invest more in others and all in all, shake things up big time. It is not a question of job security. I don’t think there is any such thing as a “safe” job in a company that is regularly experiencing RIF’s anyway. But there were plausible scenarios in an IBM acquisition that involved the complete gutting of Sun. With Oracle, there is much less to gain in that regard.

Furthermore, Oracle is much better at strategic planning than Sun has been. Sun is well known as an innovator, but that is largely due to the culture from which it has sprung. There is a long standing feeling that “If you build it, then they will come”. That is all well and good, but in my opinion, Sun has failed time and again to capitalize on the products it has built, and also to build products in the areas that it needed to to solidify its position.

IBM is excellent at that kind of thinking and execution. Oracle is too. Of course, nobody holds a candle to Microsoft in that regard, but most people that I know think that MS has gone way too far in that direction. So, I think Oracle offers a great compromise, valuing innovation, but with the long view as well.

I don’t know what the future will bring. I hope that the stability Oracle brings to Sun will allow Sun to really build some fantastic products. I hope that this is a move that bodes well for both companies and our customers. I think it does.

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