Politics & Policy

Free Birth Control for All!

The Obama administration forces the public to subsidize people’s sex lives.

To understand how the Obamaa+ administration is running America into the ground, consider the Department of Health and Human Services’ August 1 decree ordering, essentially, free birth-control pills (BCPs) for all fertile women. Through this brand-new entitlement — announced the very day that Congress voted to “reduce” the national debt — Washington mandates more giveaways, not just to poor women, but to every pregnable woman in America, regardless of employment, income, or trust fund.

By Aug. 1, 2012, Obamacare will require insurers to cover BCPs. Further, HHS guidelines state that health plans may not “charge a patient a copayment, coinsurance, or deductible for these services when they are delivered by a network provider.” Thus, BCPs will be free to women. This goody is neither focused nor means-tested. If Kim Kardashian and Katie Couric want BCPs, by Jove, they will get them free, too! Indeed, by hyperactively demanding such services for women regardless of means, Team Obamaa+ will squander scarce resources and, perversely, misdirect funds that could help needy women, just so that Paris Hilton can get her freak on, gratis.

Most federally funded, state-run Medicaid programs already finance BCPs for poor women, usually free or with co-payments as low as $1.00. This new regulation extends these gifts to middle-class and prosperous women.

“Women currently pay between $15 and $50 a month in co-pays for birth control pills — which equals $180 to $600 a year!” a writer named Serena complained July 30 on the Feminists for Choice website. Even that higher figure bankrupts no one, and 49 cents to $1.64 seems like a reasonable daily price for hot, pregnancy-free sex.

Why on Earth is the Obamaa+ administration forbidding insurers to recover some of the expense for BCPs from well-heeled women? As with other benefits that insurers are compelled to offer — but now with neither co-payments nor deductibles to help absorb the burden — the government will lob the cost onto the shoulders of everyone who does not use those services. Free pills for women; higher premiums for all.

The HHS decree is based on the federal Institute of Medicine’s July 19 recommendation of free contraceptives “so that women can better avoid unwanted pregnancies.” Experts harbor doubts about this connection.

“We intuitively think that eliminating the co-pay for birth control will help alleviate the rate of unintended pregnancies, but this may not be so,” says Dr. David Friedman, assistant clinical professor of gynecology at Manhattan’s Mount Sinai Medical Center. “If the abortion rate reflects the rate of unintended pregnancy, then populations with free birth control, like those on Medicaid, should have lower abortion rates. But the opposite is true. Although the Medicaid population made up only 18.92 percent of New Yorkers in 2009, they had 39.75 percent of abortions. This lends pause to the notion that eliminating co-pays will have any constructive effect on preventing unwanted pregnancies.”

Obamacare’s perks go far beyond the pill. According to the HHS guidelines, insured women can demand all of the following — free of co-payment and independent of income:

• Well-woman visits to doctors, including preconception and prenatal care

• Human-papillomavirus tests

• Counseling for sexually transmitted infections

• Counseling and screening for HIV

• “All Food and Drug Administration approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity.”

• “Breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling. Comprehensive lactation support and counseling, by a trained provider during pregnancy and/or in the postpartum period, and costs for renting breastfeeding equipment.”

• “Screening and counseling for interpersonal and domestic violence.”

Kirsten Moore, president and CEO of the Reproductive Health Technologies Project, dreams of better contraceptives — possibly available over the counter. “Imagine a safe, effective, daily birth control pill regimen available on store shelves alongside condoms and cough medicine,” she wrote on Sunday for AOL Healthy Living. “What if there were a Sunglass Hut for contraception?” Au contraire, Obamaa+’s mandate is likely to decelerate rather than turbocharge the pharmaceutical conveyor belt for new and improved contraceptives.

“When the Health and Human Services Department is monitoring and perhaps indirectly dictating health-insurance premiums, the government will impose significant pressure for drug companies to keep higher-cost pills ‘affordable,’ since the government will pay for them,” explains Dr. Merrill Matthews, a resident scholar at the Institute for Policy Innovation in Dallas. “That trend would discourage contraceptive innovation because pharmaceutical companies could not recapture their R&D costs.”

This new policy is designed to address an alleged American health-care crisis called being female. As Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D., Md.) put it, “We are one step closer to saying goodbye to an era when simply being a woman is treated as a pre-existing condition.”

But what about men? Where are the free condoms? Why must males pay for HIV tests, while women soon won’t? Female tubal ligation will be free of co-payments. Men who get vasectomies better bring their wallets.

Also troubling: Obamaa+’s new mandate will force pro-life Americans to pay part of the cost of birth-control pills, some of which act as abortifacients that kill embryos by stymieing their attachment to the uterine wall. These rules likewise will compel gay Americans to underwrite BCPs, which benefit only practicing heterosexuals. Social justice, anyone?

Thanks to Obamacare, Americans “with cancer, a heart ailment, or a major injury will face co-pays and deductibles, but anyone who wants to go on the Pill or rent breastfeeding equipment won’t incur any personal cost — and nobody will be free to decide otherwise,” Jeffrey Anderson laments on WeeklyStandard.com. “This is what politicized medicine looks like.”

New York commentator Deroy Murdock is a nationally syndicated columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University.

Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor, a contributor to National Review Online, and a senior fellow with the London Center for Policy Research.


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