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March 28 2012

How women’s groups are wrong about ObamaCare

The Hill
Sabrina Schaeffer

UltraViolet, a group aimed at expanding women’s rights and combating sexism, has launched a campaign in favor of ObamaCare. As UltraViolet puts it, “the big healthcare bill that President Obama signed has a ton of benefits in it that impact women specifically:”
 
1. Being a woman is no longer a "pre-existing condition."  
2. Insurance companies can't charge you more for being a woman either. 
3. Having a pap smear still sucks, but at least you don't have to shell out a co-pay for it. 
4. You also don't need a co-pay for birth control anymore.
5. Have kids? Or want to? The law helps with that too.  

 
That’s the key word — “specifically.” Too often, women’s groups on the left are focused on negotiating specific benefits for women without considering the larger impact these “advantages” have on the economy and our freedom. 
 
It’s true women have unique healthcare needs, make the majority of decisions pertaining to their family's healthcare, account for two-thirds of the dollars spent on healthcare and take more prescription drugs than men. We might even say that women have the most at stake in preserving high-quality medical treatment centered on patient choice.
 
But giving women free birth control is not the answer. 
 
A successful healthcare system is one that allows for the greatest freedom of choice, not simply free “benefits.” Ultimately, ObamaCare will leave women and men with fewer choices, a lower quality of care and higher costs — something UltraViolet doesn’t consider at all.
 
The majority of UV’s points come down to the issue of gender-based pricing — the notion that insurance companies charge different rates for men and women. Let’s be clear, this is not baseless gender discrimination; rather, it’s an attempt to deal with business and an economic reality. The fact is no one bats an eye about this in other insurance fields. For instance, young men pay higher car insurance premiums because of their gender (and risk pool). 
 
While we might not like this practice, we can’t simply eliminate gender-based pricing without consequences. By forcing insurance companies to cover the gamut of women’s health, from annual exams to maternity care to birth control, insurance companies are simply going to shift the costs of doing business. 
 
So if women are no longer paying for their own birth control, for instance, someone else — who has their own health and financial situation to consider — is now responsible. (Of course, that’s why provisions like these require the individual mandate — that the SCOTUS is considering as I type — to force Americans to buy something that doesn’t necessarily make sense for them.)
 
What’s more, UV ignores that when government gets into the business of healthcare, bureaucrats — not individuals and their doctors — will be making healthcare recommendations. (Take the debate over mammograms two years ago.)
 
UltraViolet, like Democrats, believes in manufacturing a highly regulated insurance industry instead of implementing rational, market-based reforms that would actually improve choices for women. UV should consider how women would benefit from an expanded health insurance market, health-status insurance or “future health insurance,” reforms to the tax code to extend benefits to individuals who purchase coverage on their own, and a shift from defined-benefit to defined-contribution plans. 
 
The best thing for women is not a one-size-fits all healthcare program; rather, it’s a system that allows for the greatest freedom of choice and allows individuals to make risk determinations for themselves. UltraViolet might like all the “free” benefits carved out for women, but it ignores what this means for the economy, our tax burden and freedom.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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