October 1 2013

ObamaCare’s Breast Pump Giveaway

Carrie L. Lukas

Kristina Rasmussen, Executive Vice President of the Illinois Public Policy Institute, has a great piece up debunking one of the supposedly big perks for women in ObamaCare:  free breast pumps for new moms.  She writes:

Here’s my experience with the new ObamaPump mandate: It was a real letdown.

My maternity leave is coming to an end, and I’m heading back to work soon. In preparation, I called my insurance company to take advantage of ObamaCare’s breast-pump giveaway.

My health insurance premiums have gone up significantly since the law’s passage – thanks in part to mandates like this – so I figured I might as well claim the breastfeeding equipment benefits. I was paying for it, albeit indirectly.

It turns out that my plan covers two breast pumps per benefit period. With a doctor’s prescription, I could immediately pick up two pumps from a local durable medical supply company – and two more again in January when my benefits reset.

After making numerous phone calls, I found out that most of the medical supply stores in my area didn’t carry breast pumps. The one store that did had only one breast pump model in the price range my insurance would cover.

Ignoring the store clerk’s warning that these particular pumps didn’t work well, I picked up my two ObamaPumps and headed home.

Shame on me for being so blithe. The pump was practically useless. I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say that baby would go hungry very quickly. I looked up the product’s reviews online, and I am clearly not the only one who felt this way.

Kristina is back in the market buying a pump herself.  You know, one that works and all. 

Yet the damage done by this breast-pump giveaway isn’t just the waste—the dollars spend on making and distributing pumps that don’t work and that end up being trashed by new moms.  This profoundly affects the market for breast pumps, making it harder for better pumps to compete and leaving many women with inferior pumps than they otherwise would have had.  

After all, women now have the option of a free lousy pump.  Some will make do for a while, and then give up entirely rather than buying a differnt pump.  (Yes, ironically, this even may end up actually discouraging breastfeeding.)  As a result, those selling superior pumps have a tougher job selling to a smaller group of potential buyers. 

Moreover, as Kristina mentions, many women have higher health insurance premiums—since all these "freebies" become priced into those premiums—so they have less money for buying pumps on their own.  Companies that may have been working on a newer, better pump also will invest less in their research, knowing that they will have a harder time breaking through into the marketplace.  The bottom line is that this freebie will mean higher costs, lower quality, and fewer pump options than before.  That’s hardly a bargain.

Hadley has written about the same dynamic with the contraception mandate, which gives some types of contraceptive choices (like oral contraceptives) big advantages over others (such as condoms or any yet-to-be-created male pill).

Democrats like to characterize anyone who disagrees with these government giveaways as a party to a “war on women,” but it’s clear that women (as well as men) will pay a high price, in terms of costs and in the quality and diversity of options, as government takes control over more and more of the markets for medical products.   

How is this good for women again, exactly?

 

 

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