When writing about the Obamacare and its birth-control mandate, I’ve made a handful of observations.
- First, it is very bureaucratic and inefficient to use insurance for routine medical expenses. Sort of like using auto insurance to cover the cost of getting an oil change.
- Second, insurance coverage means third-party payer, which means birth control will become more expensive (albeit financed by premiums rather than out of pocket).
- Third, coverage mandates necessarily mean one-size-fits-all rules and regulations from Washington, limiting consumer choice and hindering market flexibility.
- Fourth, federal involvement creates opportunities for corruption as big medical companies figure out ways to obtain unearned profits via subsidies and mandates.
- Fifth, if politicians and bureaucrats really want birth control to be more affordable, they would make the pill available over the counter instead of requiring a prescription.
President Trump recently announced that his Administration would relax the mandate. I think that is good news for the above reasons.
Critics are very upset. But rather than argue about the desirability of insurance coverage and the wisdom of Washington mandates, they’re actually claiming that the White House has launched some sort of war on birth control. I’m not joking.
Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe analyzes the issue. He starts by observing that nobody is proposing to ban birth control
“… the Supreme Court ruled, in Griswold v. Connecticut, that government may not ban anyone from using contraceptives. … That freedom is a matter of settled law, and hasn’t been challenged in the slightest by President Trump or his administration.”
He then points out that some folks on the left have gone ballistic.
“Hillary Clinton accused Trump of showing ‘blatant disregard for medicine, science, & every woman’s right to make her own health decisions.’ Elizabeth Warren, denouncing ‘this attack on basic health care,’ claimed that the GOP’s top priority is to deprive women of birth control.”
Their arguments, however, are utter nonsense. If Person A no longer has to subsidize Person B, that doesn’t mean Person B can’t buy things. It simply means there won’t be third-party payer.
“News flash to Warren, et al.: There is no attack on health care, and no in America is being deprived of birth control. You are losing nothing but the power to force nuns to pay for your oral contraceptives. … As a matter of economics and public policy, the Affordable Care Act mandate that birth control be supplied for free is absurd. … Especially since birth control will remain as available and affordable as ever.”
Indeed, the Trump Administration was actually far too timid. There should be no birth-control mandate for any insurance plan. It should be something negotiated by employers and employees.
“… the new White House rule leaves the birth-control mandate in place. Trump’s ‘tweak won’t affect 99.9 percent of women,’ observes the Wall Street Journal, ‘and that number could probably have a few more 9s at the end.’ Washington will continue to compel virtually every employer and insurer in America to supply birth control to any woman who wants one at no out-of-pocket cost.”
Jacoby closes his column with some very sensible observations and recommendations.
“… there is no legitimate rationale for such a mandate. Americans don’t expect to get aspirin, bandages, or cold medicine — or condoms — for free; by what logic should birth control pills or diaphragms be handed over at no cost? … By and large, birth control is inexpensive; as little as $20 a month without insurance. … access to birth control, as the Centers for Disease Control reported in 2010, was virtually universal before Obamacare. The White House is right to end the burden on religious objectors. But it is the birth-control mandate itself that should be scrapped. Contraception is legal, cheap, and available everywhere. Why are the feds meddling where they aren’t needed?”
The last sentence is key. The federal government (heck, no level of government) should be involved with birth control. They shouldn’t ban it. And they shouldn’t mandate it, either.
P.S. About five years ago, Sandra Fluke got her 15 minutes of fame by asserting that she had a right to third-party-financed birth control. That led to some clever jokes, including this cartoon and this video.
P.P.S. Predictably, the United Nations supports a “right” to taxpayer-financed birth control.
Daniel J. Mitchell is a top expert on tax reform and supply-side tax policy and is Chairman of the Center for Freedom and Prosperity. Mitchell is a strong advocate of a flat tax and international tax competition.