Busy day in Concord starts with end-of-life bill

End-of-life; smoothing the way for telemed abortions; making oral contraceptives available over the counter (and maybe undercutting the HHS mandate on the way); demanding transparency from insurers: welcome to Tuesday at the State House in Concord. Hearings will begin this morning on these bills.

HB 151:  establishing a committee to study end-of-life decisions

In 2013, Governor John Lynch vetoed a bill to set up a committee to study “end-of-life decisions.” The bill had originated as a straight-up assisted suicide bill before being amended into what the sponsor hoped would be a noncontroversial baby step forward. I noted at the time that Rep. Robert Rowe was not fooled. He spoke to his colleagues briefly and forcefully during the floor debate, saying “The total thrust of this bill is euthanasia.”

New session, new sponsor: House Bill 151 has been brought forward by Rep. Larry Phillips (D-Keene). The bill has no co-sponsors at this time. Rep. Phillips wants to commission six state representatives and one state senator to study end-of-life decisions, with the bill to become effective upon passage and a committee report due November 1.

The committee, should it be formed, would be tasked with (but not limited to) “investigating the positive and negative effects of legislation in states that have enacted aid in dying laws, innovation practices of other states, specifically Minnesota, Wisconsin, and California, how to encourage careful and responsible deliberation about this complex and emotional issue, and any other matter the committee deems relevant to its objective.

Rep. Rowe had it right in 2013. His words are just as apt now.

SB 36: making oral contraceptives available without a prescription

This one comes from Senator Andy Sanborn (R-Bedford). Interesting. I had two thoughts when I heard about this bill: Culturally, it’s wretched. Politically, it has one potential good effect: it could weaken the Obamacare contraceptive mandate.

If oral contraceptives are available without a prescription – behind the counter, under the terms of Sen. Sanborn’s bill, rather than over the counter – they won’t be covered under anyone’s health insurance prescription drug plan. Anyone wanting to consume an oral contraceptive would pay for it herself, or receive it under a Title X family planning subsidy. That’s how things stood before August 2012, when the creaking leviathan known as Obamacare began imposing what was then known as the HHS mandate.

Obamacare classifies suppression of female fertility as a public-health priority, to the extent of treating it as “preventive care.” We are all therefore mandated to pay for it in our health insurance plans, and most business owners are required to include it in any health insurance plan offered to employees, irrespective of religious beliefs about the immorality of contraception and abortion-inducing drugs. Remember, the Hobby Lobby case was very narrow. Many other Americans are still in court defending their right not to pay for someone else’s contraception.

If SB 36 were to pass, it wouldn’t affect shots or implants or IUDs. The contraceptive mandate would still exist, as long as there’s public policy in place that treats women’s fertility as something to be prevented. Title X would still exist, with tax-funded block grants going to states for “family planning” excluding surgical abortion.

I wonder what non-prescription birth control pills would mean for agencies like Planned Parenthood. Is it safe to assume that the cost of the drugs would go down, if they were available without prescription? Would the agencies pass on those savings to clients? Would they not need quite so much Title X money to do the same job they’re doing now? Or would the agencies shift to a medical model relying more on implanted drugs, keeping the mandate as a cash cow?

Let’s see who shows up to testify on this one.

SB 42: relative to employee notification of contraceptive coverage

If SB 42 passes, and if you’re an employer who offers health insurance as an employee benefit, you have to tell your employees about contraceptive coverage and what contraceptives might not be covered.

“Such notice shall be prominently displayed on the face of any written application for employment …[and] where such employer maintains a publicly accessible Internet webpage that provides information on prospective employment opportunities, the employer shall provide clear and conspicuous notice on the webpage as to whether the employer provides contraceptive coverage and, if so, whether such coverage includes some, but not all, contraceptive drugs and devices or their generic equivalent approved by the FDA.”

Fine. We’ll inch toward transparency in our insurance policies even if we have to rely on Hobby Lobby opponents to do it. This bill is sponsored by Senators David Pierce (D-Lebanon) and Martha Fuller Clark (D-Portsmouth), who are fuming at the very narrow victory won at the Supreme Court by the owners of Hobby Lobby, who objected to covering four out of the twenty methods of FDA-approved contraception.

Of course, transparency isn’t the sponsors’ goal here. It’s simply a means to a couple of ends. One end is to embarrass employers who would rather stay out of their employees’ sex lives. Another is to make abortion and birth control indistinguishable and equally desirable under public policy. The owners of Hobby Lobby objected only to helping provide four methods of “birth control” that are known to induce abortions. The Supreme Court OK’d that narrow exception for that one type of business (closely-held). That’s apparently going too far, in the eyes of Senators Pierce and Clark.

SB 84, relative to the definition of “telemedicine”

Telemedicine – the use of electronic media like video conferencing for the purpose of diagnosis, consultation or treatment – is going to be extraordinarily valuable. It holds great promise for mental health treatment, among other things, and mental health treatment was the focus of a New Hampshire study committee on telemedicine. SB 84 has been drafted in the wake of the committee’s recommendations.

A New Hampshire telemedicine law will be just as useful for abortion providers who have been impatient to start dispensing abortion-inducing pills remotely. Telemed abortions are already being done elsewhere in the country. It’s neither good medicine nor good social policy to suppress telemedicine simply because abortion providers want to use it. As with SB 36, though, it’ll be interesting to see who testifies on this one.