January 23 2012
According to the left, women are supposed to celebrate the Obama Administration's mandate that virtually all health insurance packages must include birth control for free.
I suppose those without even a vague understanding of economics can accept such a ludicrous concept, like children celebrating the coins they find from the tooth fairy. Hooray! Some magical force has wiped away the need to pay someone to produce, package, and distribute this product so that we can all have as much of it as we want for free!
Yet the sentient understand that birth control isn't free. Someone has to pay the costs of producing it (or the production and distribution of it will just stop). Health insurance companies that no longer can charge for birth control will just have to build those costs into the core price of their insurance coverage. This will shift costs from those who use prescription birth control to those who don't. Some may try to suggest that cheaper birth control will reduce the need for other more expensive medical treatments (such as births and abortions), but if that were really the case, insurance companies demonized by the left for being profit-obsessed surely would have figured this out and adopted this policy on their own.
This kind of cost-shifting happens all the time in health insurance. When regulations limit insurance companies' ability to charge different groups different premiums that shifts costs from one group to the other – from the unhealthy to the health, from men to women, from smokers to non-smokers, from the young to the old, and so on.
That's not what's particularly outrageous about this case. In this case, the real price Americans pay for “free birth control for all!” is in the damage done to the concept of religious liberty and the freedom of association.
Some religious groups find certain kinds of contraception immoral. Personally, I don't share those concerns, but that really doesn't matter for this discussion. When it comes to religious liberty, we aren't supposed to have to agree with the conclusions that others reach. So long as their belief system doesn't include violating the rights of others—say, human sacrifice, stealing property, blowing up buildings, etc—we are supposed to respect their right to practice that religion in coordination with others that voluntarily join them.
What this decision says is that many religious institution that provides health insurance must violate their core principles. The Administration's rule recognizes this in part so provides exemptions for entities that are explicitly houses of worship, but will still force the provision on other entities with religious ties. What will be the result? Likely, some organizations that object to birth control will simply stop providing health insurance at all.
How's that good for women? Why should it be illegal for a bunch of people to start a company or an organization that isn't explicitly a house of worship, but still wants to follow certain principles? No one is compelled to take a job there or be a part of that group. What ever happened to the concept of freedom of association?
The Left talks a lot about the importance of “diversity.” Sometimes it seems, though, that what they mean by diversity is people who look and dress a little different and might speak different languages, but all share a faith and adherence to the liberal agenda de jour. The truth is that these kinds of one-size-fits-all mandates are the enemy of real diversity and to freedoms that are supposed to be central to our country.