Will Courts Decide What Our Healthcare Rights Are?
A U.S. District Judge has ruled that Union Pacific Railroad is unfairly discriminating against women for not including prescription contraceptive coverage in the company’s health plan.
This is a very interesting ruling because it raises the issue as to whether or not courts can force private companies to provide a certain level or a certain kind of healthcare.
According to the judge in the case, Union Pacific is in violation of the Civil Rights Act which prevents companies with 15 or more employees from discriminating on the basis of gender of pregnancy. The ruling says Union Pacific’s policy is discriminatory “because it treats medical care women need to prevent pregnancy less favorably than it treats medical care needed to prevent other medical conditions that are no greater threat to employees' health than is pregnancy.”
But to me, this seems like a medical rights case masquerading as a civil rights case. What if the company decided not to pay for treatment of diseases caused by obesity? Would that also be a violation of an employee’s civil rights? How about the very real case of the company that routinely tests employees to see if they’ve been smoking and fires all smokers, even if all the smoking is done outside of work?
As healthcare costs rise and as medical knowledge grows, we could see more-and-more cases of workers suing for specific kinds of health coverage. I'm sure some smart lawyers and well-funded interest groups could figure out a compelling argument as to how we are constitutionally guaranteed healthcare from our employers.
This is yet another reason why I support reforming the healthcare system so that Americans don’t rely solely on their employers for coverage. We have simply progressed to a point that we no longer consider healthcare a benefit. It is a right. Or at least a necessity. And we need to figure out how to get all Americans a basic level of care. And we need to do so outside of the courts.
I don’t think we want court cases determining what coverage we are and are not entitled to.