August 2 2012

New Regulations as a Boon to Women

Krista Kafer

 

The Administration is heralding new regulations that kick in this week to require employers—including religiously-affiliated employers—to offer insurance covering contraceptive services as a boon to women. Many women like me, who don’t have moral objections to birth control, are calling the mandate unfair.  It is unfair to both employers, who face fines if they don’t purchase the prescribed insurance, and employees, who object to higher premiums to cover services with which they disagree or don’t use. After all, the drugs aren’t free; their cost is rolled into the price of the premiums paid by all those who are covered by the insurance.

I, myself, do not have a problem with birth control pills. Birth control pills are used not only to prevent pregnancy but to prevent symptoms associated with endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome, and acne—to my mind, all legitimate reasons for taking medication. The reason it is inequitable to require woman like me who do not use birth control to pay for these prescriptions is that we have to pay full price for our own preventative care regimen.  

I take expensive anti-inflammatory drugs to prevent debilitating pain in my hands. Since I use my hands for work, you could say I take the drugs to prevent unemployment. My mom, a fit 65 year old, takes blood pressure medication to prevent her blood pressure from sky rocketing and causing an untimely death. Other women I know take anti-depressants to prevent depression or medicine to prevent cancer recurrence or drugs to prevent migraines. All of these drugs are preventative in the same way that birth control pills prevent pregnancy or the symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome. The difference between these preventative medications and birth control pills is that coverage is a matter between the insurance company and the insured.

As a self-employed woman, I selected an affordable insurance plan with a high deductible and minimal prescription discounts. My anti-inflammatory drugs cost me several thousand dollars a year. Add in the operation I’ve got coming this November and, well, it’s pretty ugly financially. I’m not suggesting that the government force other people to pay for my medical care; however, it is not fair that I should pay full freight for my preventative care and be forced to pay for someone else’s through my premiums which have already gone up as a result.

There’s a deeper injustice to women lurking in the future. Consider this: if the government has the power to favor one type of drug over another, does it not have the power to disfavor or restrict access to certain drugs or care? Last year a government panel recommended that women receive their first screening mammogram at the age of 50 not 40 as is recommended by the medical profession.  This year, the same panel is asking doctors to calculate Body Mass Indexes for all patients and refer those deemed overweight to obesity programs.  At what point does recommend become require and ask become demand?

It wasn’t so long ago that a woman asked the President about the care her elderly mother would receive in the future. He responded, “[W]hat we can do is make sure that at least some of the waste that exists in the system that's not making anybody's mom better, that is loading up on additional tests or additional drugs that the evidence shows is not necessarily going to improve care, that at least we can let doctors know and your mom know that, you know what? Maybe this isn't going to help. Maybe you're better off not having the surgery but taking the painkiller.”

In other words, we the government can let doctors know what they should do. Portentous words. What the government gives, the government can take away.

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