Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Spinning The Cost Of Contraception

“I've worked out a few statistics of my own.  Fifteen billion dollars in gold bullion weighs 10,500 tons.  Sixty men would take twelve days to load it onto two hundred trucks.  At the most, you'll have two hours before the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines move in and make you put it back.”
               —Sean Connery as James Bond in Goldfinger

Figures don’t lie.  Liars figure.

By now you’re well familiar with the flap over the executive mandate that religiously-affiliated universities and hospitals cover contraception and sterilization under the Obamacare plan.  In yet another showing of his boundless empathy for those who disagree with him, Obama offered a “compromise” last week whereby those universities and hospitals wouldn’t have to provide that coverage themselves, but instead their insurance carriers would have to provide it.

I was going to ask whether he really thinks we’re that stupid.  Alas, judging from some of the  comments I’ve seen, not only does he think that, but apparently he’s right.

This “compromise” is, of course, a nonstarter, and should have been laughed down as the silly semantic game that it is.  We can shift the direct cost of the contraceptives from the employer to the insurance company, but who, exactly, pays for the insurance, and what exactly do we think is going to happen to the cost of that insurance once carriers are forced by executive mandate to cover these drugs?  One way or another, religiously-affiliated universities and hospitals are going to end up paying for these things, their religious convictions be damned.

What’s the big deal?  It’s not like we’re making you pay for abortions.

Um, yes it is.

Many common contraceptive drugs such as The Pill and “Plan B,” and even modern contraceptive devices like IUDs work at least in part through an abortifacient mechanism.  That is, they prevent implantation of an embryo after fertilization, thus not preventing pregnancy but instead inducing a very early miscarriage—an abortion.  This presents a very serious problem for Catholics and many other Christians:

“Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception.  From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person—among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life . . . Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense.”

Catechism of the Catholic Church, §§ 2270, 2272 (emphasis added).  I don’t go through this in an effort to proselytize you, but to help you understand that for many of us being compelled to participate, directly or indirectly in abortions—and, by extension, in contraception—is a major affront to our religious beliefs.  That’s why it’s so amazing to see the mental gymnastics that have been going on for some time to force this measure down our throats, despite our First Amendment guarantees.

The controversy dates back to the original regulations released by HHS in August 2011 requiring so-called “non-grandfathered health plans” to cover contraceptives and sterilization procedures for women.  Although after receiving approximately 200,000 comments HHS graciously permitted an exception for “religious employers,” that term was so narrowly defined that it really only includes churches themselves, not church-supported universities or hospitals or other organizations like charitable groups.  So the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston was exempted, but the seminary at the University of St. Thomas was not.  After much hue and cry, HHS conceded an additional year for nonprofit organizations that do not currently provide contraceptive coverage due to religious beliefs, to comply.

A whole year for those organizations to reverse a 2,000 year old teaching.  And I thought it was going to be a rush.

This time, after the latest “concession” purportedly shifting the cost from the faithful to their insurance carriers, HHS attempted to justify its new regulations by claiming that “there are significant cost savings to employers from the coverage of contraceptives.”  The way HHS figures it:

“[I]t would cost employers 15 to 17 percent more not to provide contraceptive coverage in employee health plans than to provide such coverage, after accounting for both the direct medical costs of pregnancy and the indirect costs such as employee absence and reduced productivity.”

I see.  It’s OK for the administration to trample on our religious beliefs because in doing so, they’re saving us money.

Obama, the "Savings President."  Has a nice, hollow ring to it, doesn’t it?

But notice the underlying mental pathology here.  Implicit within the dollar savings is the assumption that all of the pregnancies occurring because a certain health plan doesn’t cover contraceptives were unwanted. So, if only those women had contraceptive coverage under their employer’s health plans, they wouldn’t have had all of those babies.

Ah, I get it now. If all women had access to contraceptive coverage through their employer’s health plans, none of them would be having babies – because all of the pregnancies that occur in employees working for employers that don’t cover contraceptives are unwanted.  Of course, that policy undermines Joe Biden's philosophy of children as a funding mechanism for the Entitlement State.

Continuing with its fuzzy “new math,” HHS also noted that “owing to reproductive and sex-specific conditions, women use preventive services more than men, generating significant out-of-pocket expenses for women.”  What they forgot to mention is that, as of January 1, 2011, Obamacare took condoms, contraceptive creams, home pregnancy tests, and other over-the-counter contraceptive items off of the list of reimbursable expenses for healthcare flexible spending accounts in an effort to reduce the amount of money that employees could use to pay for out-of-pocket medical expenses on a pre-tax basis, thus generating more tax revenue for the government.  So in the name of reducing the financial burden on women we’re ramrodding contraceptive coverage down the throats of those whose religious beliefs oppose it, while at the same time we’re adding to that burden by taking away an incentive for men to use over-the-counter contraceptives.  In other words, it’s OK to exclude contraceptives if doing so generates more tax dollars, but it’s not okay to exclude them if the exclusion is based on religious beliefs.

Things are definitely becoming clearer.  I’m glad we passed that bill so we could learn what’s in it.

But here’s where it’s really going to get sticky.  Last week’s “compromise” shifted direct costs from religious employers to their insurance carriers.  But the next move is going to be coming up with a similar mechanism for employees covered by self-funded plans.  Self-funded.  As in claims are not paid for by an insurance company, but out of the employer’s general asset base.  According to the Obama administration, the money to pay for the contraceptive coverage is not going to come from those plans.  So, where’s it going to come from?  The insurance fairy?

Once again, this administration—and the Left in general—is exposed for its fundamental practical ignorance.  Caught up in utopian dreams of free universal health care covering unlimited access to contraception and abortion, they lose sight of the basic fact that somebody in fact has to pay for those things.  Insurance is not some magic arrangement where you just get to go to a doctor for free.  It’s a private contract of wager.  You pay periodic premiums set by an statistical formula that calculates the odds a given person will need treatment, such that the insurer by spreading its risk over a broad enough pool, takes in enough money to cover the claims it has agreed to pay, and still make a profit.  No matter how you try to spin it, when you enact legislation forcing the carrier to cover certain additional drugs or procedures, you alter that private contract, and you change the math.  You’ve added to the risk to which the carrier is exposed, and it must change the premium calculation accordingly.  That added cost is passed on to the person paying the premium—typically an employer—whether they agree to it or not. 

So much for the First Amendment.

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