The Real Birth Control Issue

In the kerfuffle/brouhaha/contretemps over Obama and his contraception edict to religious organizations, the debate has focused on whether the government should force religious organizations (primarily the Catholics) to violate their principles as they pertain to contraceptives as part of Obamacare (see here and here). I think this is all beside the real point, which is this:


This ruling not only requires all employer-provided health insurance to cover contraceptives, but they can't even charge a co-pay for it. It has to be totally, absolutely free. Here's some cost info on birth control:
According to Planned Parenthood (2010), the cost of birth control pills is $15 to $50 a month, depending on the type of pill. On an annual basis, that means the pill costs between $180 and $600, plus doctor visits. Other forms of birth control carry varying costs: For example, Depo-Provera shots cost up to $600 per year, and a diaphragm costs from $60 to $100 per year, plus office visits. The cost of condoms is dependent on useage, but at an average cost of $2.50 times two per week, they would typically cost $250.00 per year.
I'd argue that that's not a lot of money. I'd say that is true even for the poor, considering what possessions poor people often have. If $600 a year is too much to ask people to pay, what else do we have to provide for free? Heat? A car? Diapers? Besides, this freebie isn't even aimed at the poor; all women get free contraceptives under Obamacare. Why should Warren Buffett's wife get free birth control?

I'm sure the argument for this is that contraceptives prevent unwanted births, and thus save money. But considering that nine of 10 insurers and employers already cover it, according to my first link in the first paragraph,  I doubt this provision will change much of anything. If people want birth control now, it's more than likely they can get it. And if they want it, why not have them throw in a few bucks out-of-pocket?

This illustrates the main problem with government interference in health care: politicians force insurers to cover every politically correct procedure or drug. This leads to increases in insurance premiums, reduces consumer choice, and, by introducing a third-party payer, increases the cost of medical care (but these are probably purposeful drawbacks, intended to destroy the private insurance market). As John Cochrane says in this WSJ article that may or may not be behind a paywall:
Insurance is a bad idea for small, regular and predictable expenses. There are good reasons that your car insurance company doesn't add $100 per year to your premium and then cover oil changes, and that your health insurance doesn't charge $50 more per year and cover toothpaste. You'd have to fill out mountains of paperwork, the oil-change and toothpaste markets would become much less competitive, and you'd end up spending more.
The minute pills are "free," under insurance, the incentive for drug companies to come up with cheaper versions vanishes. So does their incentive to develop safer, more convenient, male-centered or nonprescription birth control. And by making pills free but not condoms, the government may inadvertently be contributing to an increase in sexually transmitted diseases.
So, yes, the religious freedom aspect of this issue is troubling, but it's not the main reason to complain.

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