September 6 2012
The Denver Post
When Colorado Congresswoman Diana DeGette lauded the Western traditions of individual rights and women’s equality during her speech at the Democratic National Convention, I, as a Colorado native, felt a momentary sense of solidarity and pride. Then the lofty speech took a nosedive as the congresswoman falsely accused Republicans of wanting to deny women access to birth control. Not this again. Campaign season distortions this week have hit a new low over the government mandate regarding contraception coverage.
Let’s return to the facts: Acting under the Affordable Care Act, the Department of Health and Human Service issued a mandate requiring employer-provided insurance plans to cover contraception without requiring patients to submit a copay. Someone has to shoulder these costs, and insurance companies are certain to pass them on to employers and patients as higher premiums.
The mandate is broadly applied, which means that employers with religious beliefs that object to contraception will be forced to violate their conscience by complying with the mandate or pay enormous fines. For this reason, some 60 faith-based and secular organizations and businesses have sued to protect their rights to practice their religion freely. Colorado’s Hercules Industries, for example, which would have faced an $800,000 per month fine for noncompliance, won an injunction against the rule while the case proceeds.
In her speech, Congresswoman DeGette spoke of the value of choosing the direction of one’s life, and yet she believes that it is OK for the government to tell people what to do and what to pay for. Being forced by government to pay for someone else’s life choices isn’t determining the direction of your life.
DeGette believes that government can single out one form of preventative drug and demand that everyone pay higher premiums to cover it. This process is unfair. I take anti-inflammatory drugs to prevent debilitating pain, which cost me more than $1,000 a year. My mom takes blood pressure medication to prevent her blood pressure from sky rocketing. Other women I know take anti-depressants 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; but we’re not suggesting other people pay for our drugs.
I oppose the mandate not just because it will violate fellow American’s consciences (I, myself, have no moral reservations about contraception), but because government should not be involved in our medical decisions.
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. At what point does recommend become require and ask become demand?
It wasn’t so long ago that when 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, the government can let doctors know what they should do. Portentous words. What the government gives, the government can take away.
Congresswoman DeGette and other speakers at the Democratic National Convention pay lip service to individual rights while supporting greater government interference in our private lives. In keeping with the Colorado traditions of individual rights and women’s equality, we need to get government out of our health care.
Krista Kafer is the director of the Colorado’s Future Project and a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum.