Politics & Policy

Contraception by Fiat

The Supreme Court decided decades ago that access to birth control is a constitutional right. Now, the Obama administration’s Department of Health and Human Services has decided that access to “free” birth control is a right, too. Under new HHS regulations, which the department is authorized to create under Obamacare, insurance plans will be required to cover birth control — including the morning-after pill “ella,” which seems to work as an abortifacient in some cases — with no co-pay. The rule will take effect Aug. 1, 2012, or later.

Of course, insurance companies don’t provide anything for “free.” Any time they cover a new service or eliminate co-pays, they charge higher premiums to make up the lost revenue. So the department is forcing people who do not use birth control to subsidize it, through higher premiums, for people who do.

#ad#The new regulations raise other concerns as well. The birth-control mandate is not spelled out within Obamacare itself; instead, the law forces insurers to cover “preventive medicine,” and authorizes unelected bureaucrats to define that term. Further, it is unclear whether the mandate will cover minors in states that require parental consent for birth control. The policy does allow for some religious exemptions, but they will not include many religious health-care providers.

Also, it’s difficult to see what problem this is supposed to address. There is no evidence whatsoever that under current law, women or couples have trouble affording birth control. Condoms are cheap, and many government agencies and private organizations give them away for free. Private insurers cover birth-control pills, albeit with a co-pay, and state Medicaid programs typically cover them for the poor. No research indicates that making birth control even less expensive than it is now will decrease unwanted pregnancies or abortion rates.

Conservatives warned that the passage of Obamacare presaged a government takeover of Americans’ health-care decisions. These new regulations constitute further evidence: They interfere in the market, and they were formulated by unelected bureaucrats. They are yet one more reason that Obamacare deserves to be repealed.

The Editors comprise the senior editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.

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