Covering the costs makes sense
You have likely heard about the debate regarding employer-sponsored contraception coverage over the last few weeks. The Affordable Care Act passed in 2010 requires full coverage for preventative care services beginning in August. While many services are covered under this umbrella, female contraception has been the focus of the controversy.
The mandate excludes churches and other strictly religious institutions. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops feels that semi-religious institutions such as Catholic hospitals or schools should not have to provide coverage for medical services with which Catholicism does not agree — never mind that 28 states already require contraception coverage or that religious institutions in those states have been providing that coverage for years without issue.
Many employees of Catholic hospitals and schools are not Catholic themselves and see no reason their employer’s values should be enforced in their personal lives. About 52 percent of Catholics support the coverage mandate and 98 percent of American women have taken hormonal birth control at some point in their lives, and they are not the promiscuous “fallen women.” Each woman takes birth control for a myriad of different reasons. Perhaps a married woman has children already and does not wish to have more or wishes to space her pregnancies.
Contraception is also recommended by doctors to help deal with medical conditions such as acne, irregular menstruation, severe cramping and serious disorders like polycystic ovary syndrome.
Friday, President Barack Obama announced a compromise. Female employees of these institutions can have access to contraception directly through their insurance company without their employer having to pay for a service they find objectionable. Women can get the health care that they need, and religious freedom can be removed from the equation.
Detractors claim that full coverage is too large a financial burden on private insurers; however, if one merely looks at the facts, there is no such burden. From a fiscal perspective, full contraception coverage makes more sense. It’s cheaper for an insurance company than either a pregnancy or an abortion. The Guttmacher Institute has found that every dollar spent on family planning reduces Medicaid expenditures by almost four times as much. A study by the National Business Group on Health encouraged large employers to provide full contraception coverage for their employees, because failure to do so would cost them an extra 15 percent on average.
In addition to saving business and government money, this will obviously save the woman in question a great deal as well. Up to one-third of women have difficulty affording contraception, and low-income women are three times more likely than other women to become pregnant unintentionally
Taking contraceptives does not mean that one is promiscuous or that one doesn’t want children or even that pregnancy is necessarily a bad thing. It means taking responsibility for your health and your future. Contraception without cost-sharing is a win for women, for insurers, for the government and for society as a whole.
Emily Brooks is an economics senior and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.