October 13 2009
Carrie L. Lukas
Democrats have been trying to justify their grand health-care plans by pushing the "women's" angle. As I've written before, it's a tactic they often employ, and for good reason: It effectively plays on sympathies and can make the opposition look like a bunch of jerks.
This New York Times piece encapsulates this dynamic perfectly: Female senators take to the floor to tell anecdotes about women who have fallen through the cracks of the current system, with a special focus on birth stories. And poor Senator Kyl falls into the role of jerk in this exchange, as reported by the Times:
"I don't need maternity care," Mr. Kyl said. "And so requiring that to be in my insurance policy is something that I don't need and will make the policy more expensive." Ms. Stabenow interjected "I think your mom probably did." Mr. Kyl shot back, "Yeah, over 60 years ago my mom did."
Senator Kyl sounds terribly insensitive, no? And of course, everyone at least once has an interest in maternity care given we're all born once. Most people do recognize there's something different about the role of a pregnant woman in society; after all, it isn't just her welfare at stake, but that of her innocent unborn baby. This theoretically is one of the reasons government programs like "Women, Infants, and Children" specifically provided funding to help this vulnerable group.
Yet Mr. Kyl makes a reasonable point. When government dictates what insurance policies must contain - whether that is general maternity care or more specific mandates like a two-night stay in hospital for any birth - the cost of insurance goes up. While we may sympathize with those in need of maternity care, the principle and the affect is the same: You price people out of the market by driving up the cost of insurance.
We can all agree that it's a problem when pregnant women can't afford health care without flocking to support the kind of massive government intervention in the health-insurance marketplace that the Democrats are advancing. There are far better ways to reform health care to make it better for women.
But given the focus on maternity care, it's worth recalling that tort reform is probably the best prescription. The specter of medical malpractice has been brutal on those practicing obstetrics, which is why many doctors stop (or never enter) the field. This has led to shortages of OBGYNs in some parts of the country. If you want to make maternity care more affordable and readily available, why not start by limiting the damaging effects of jackpot malpractice awards, instead of embracing a trillion-dollar experiment with the health-care system?