Trivializing Women’s Health Care

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August 14, 2011 by Daniel Stack

There’s been a bit of debate on the recent announcement by the Obama Administration’s recent announcement that insurers will be required to cover a variety of women’s health issues. To quote the Chicago Tribune:

Under new rules proposed Monday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, insurers would be required to provide contraceptive services, breast-feeding support and supplies, domestic violence screening and counseling, regular “well woman” visits, counseling about HIV and sexually transmitted infections, screening for gestational diabetes, and several other preventive services without charging women any copayments.

– Chicago Tribune, U.S. to require birth control without copay, August 2, 2011

The reaction from Republican office-holders has been somewhat muted though Conservative pundits have been less shy. Former Bush Administration Press Secretary Dana Perino stating if you can afford a five dollar frappuccino at Starbucks you can afford a five-dollar copay. Below find The Daily Show’s take on this.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

In addition to the arguments made by Jon Stewart, it is worth pointing out that the days of the five-dollar copay have been over for ages.  For example the birth control my wife’s doctor has prescribed for her costs us $350 per year or approximately $30 per month. (That’s assuming mail order – getting from the local pharmacy would cost us double that.) It is worth noting that my company’s benefits plan is among the more generous ones.

Moreover, the lack of contraceptive use is a strong component in the number of unplanned pregnancies. For example, theNational Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy has determined that approximately 70% of pregnancies in unmarried women in their twenties are unplanned. The use of some form of contraception is vital for the prevention of  unplanned pregnancy – the Tribune article indicated above cites a study that indicates that 95% of unplanned pregnancies involved no or inconsistent use of birth control. And the rate of sexual activity among teens and young adults is high enough that an increase in regular-contraceptive use among teens can dramatically reduce the rates of teen pregnancy.

While there are moral and religious considerations, 99% of sexually active women have used some form of birth control. (Source: Centers for Disease Control — Unplanned Pregnancy Prevention: Contraception) To hear the pundits talk there seems to be a suggestion that birth control is used for purposes of engaging in promiscuous casual encounters. It ignores the fact that many families choose to have some control over the times their families grow and the sizes of their family. And it ignores medical and financial reasons why a family may forego additional children – for example, after every pregnancy my wife’s depression grew worse to the point we are very hesitant to have more children.

Is it wrong for your tax money or insurance premiums be used for such purposes, especially if you find them immoral? I have some sympathy for this objection but this seems to be something difficult to avoid. I would imagine there is not a single taxpayer for whom every use of federal dollars is viewed as morally appropriate. Should tax dollars have been used to pay for wars of questionable justice? For executions? The best recourse to this issue would be at the ballot box. However, as I said at the opening of this posting, there have been few elected officials who have come out strongly against the elimination of these copays. I would imagine the frequency of their use is a strong reason behind this.

It is also worth noting that the elimination of contraception copays is only a part of this. This also covers breast-feeding support and supplies, domestic violence screening and counseling, etc. I have heard some pundits view counseling as a step on a slippery slope to providing pedicures!

I leave you with the Colbert Report’s take on this issue. (Warning – not to be viewed by those who will be offended by watching Stephen Colbert miming a Tyrannosaurus Rex attempting to put on a condom.)

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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August 2011

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