Implementing a universal healthcare system — such as the single-payer system used in Canada — would remove employers from the healthcare game altogether. Under such a system, individuals would be covered directly as individuals, not as employees. This would get religious employers out of the business of paying for insurance, and thus keep them from being vaguely close to paying for contraception too. This benefit would be in addition to all of the normal benefits attributed to such a system: it contains costs better, covers absolutely everyone, and delivers care more efficiently.
As it stands however, the dysfunctional and costly system we have in place appears poised to remain for some time, making these employer contraception rules very important for those interested in reproductive justice. Although it would have been better if the Obama administration had held strongly to its January 20th rule that rejected religious exemptions to contraception coverage, the compromise is not so bad either. If the administration does not compromise further, this new rule ensures that all employees covered by employer-provided health insurance will have free access to contraception one way or another. That is definitely progress even if somewhat muted.
Matthew Yglesias’ post yesterday about this debate is also highly recommended.