Who’s the boss on health care?

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Just before noon on Thursday, the Senate voted 51-48 against a bipartisan amendment offered by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) that would have spared religious groups the choice of breaching faith or having government fines imposed on them through a now-infamous Obamacare mandate.

The liberals who blocked religious freedom defended the Obama administration’s anti-conscience mandate. That mandate will force insurance plans, including those carried by religious employers, to provide coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives and sterilization — even if such coverage violates their beliefs.

Only houses of worship will be exempted from the mandate. Members of religious groups that serve the public by providing health care, education and basic food and shelter will be forced to violate their consciences or face penalties for non-compliance or dropping coverage.

Rather than defend religious liberty, liberals have prattled on about “bosses in bedrooms.” They need to get their facts straight.

For starters, liberals should make it plain who’s the real boss now when it comes to Obamacare. It’s not the person buying the insurance; it’s Kathleen Sebelius — President Obama’s secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Let’s be clear. Conservatives want all Americans to have freedom of choice in health care. They have a big, long track record on this issue.

Real choice. That means if you want to choose a plan from a union, a trade association or your employer, it should be your decision. It also means you should have the right to choose the health benefit package you want, including desired medical treatments and procedures.

This kind of personal health coverage decision should be a personal matter — not a mandate from your employer, some state bureaucrat or the HHS secretary, a political appointee. If Americans had that kind of choice, we would have more freedom in health care decisions than we’ve had in decades. And we’d have far more freedom than we’re about to have under Obamacare.

There’s one big reason why you can’t simply get the health plan you want. If you get your coverage through your boss, you get it tax free. If you want a plan other than the one offered by your employer, you can buy it, but only with “after-tax” dollars. That means paying much bigger premiums, possibly as much as 50 percent more for the same package of benefits available at your job.

The right policy would be to open up the health insurance marketplace and tie tax breaks for insurance coverage to the person rather than simply his or her place of employment. We should let Americans buy the coverage they want without being subject to big tax or regulatory penalties, let alone nasty fines.

Yes, good Samaritans now face a fine on their faith. The Congressional Research Service reports that if employers don’t comply with the anti-conscience mandate under Obamacare, they could be fined $100 per day for each employee.

Fines are especially nasty when they’re imposed on you because you don’t want to violate your ethical, moral or religious convictions in paying for medical procedures or services that you find objectionable.

We don’t need a fine on faith.

We need health reform that would allow Americans to choose from among many plans to meet a wide range of personal needs and values — whether they’re interested in prenatal care or the ethical treatment of animals in medical trials. You shouldn’t be limited to one choice, whether it’s the health plan provided by your boss or the HHS secretary, or some bureaucrat who works for her and couldn’t care less about your personal wants and needs.

The “boss in the bedroom” is a bogeyman conjured by liberals (and a bit over the top, if you ask us). The reality is that Obamacare’s mandates have sent Sebelius marching right into the private lives of millions of Americans — through their employers — forcing them to rewrite private insurance coverage, trampling conscience, personal ethical convictions and religious liberty on her way.

So, fellow Americans, meet your new health care boss: HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

And especially on the heels of this close Senate vote, don’t be fooled by desperate demagoguery. You know, like: “Conservatives want to take away affordable access to birth control and put your boss in your bedroom and in charge of your most personal health care decisions.”

Who believes that’s what 48 senators voted to do today? We’ve never met the people alleged to want to do such a thing, and we know a few conservatives. If we ever do meet them, we’ll let them know they’re on a fool’s errand — and not just because it’s a vile, absurd idea.

It’s also impossible: Obamacare already has put the power over personal health decisions in the hands of Sebelius and her bureaucrats. The way to get it out of their clutches is to repeal Obamacare.

And when that happens, conservatives will be the ones putting authority for personal health care decisions back in the hands of the real bosses — the American people.

Jennifer A. Marshall is director of the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation, where Robert E. Moffit is senior fellow in the Center for Policy Innovation.