I recently posted that a new regulation from the Obama administration requires insurers to cover birth control for free. This was definitely the spirit of the guideline. It suggests, as I said in the post, that the administration sees the ability to plan your family or lack thereof as a right rather than a privilege.
That said, I’m seeing a lot of angry comments around the web, which point out the financial reality that nothing is free. This is true. As I’ve said from the beginning, the universal health care bill is dangerously flawed. It forces insurers to do lots of good stuff, but does not regulate premiums at all. Expect those to skyrocket in response to all the new expenses the bill forces on insurers. If they don’t skyrocket, it’ll be because of the super draconian measure of the bill that its fans tend to ignore: it forces people who don’t have insurance to buy some as of 2014.
“Oh,” people tell me, “they’ll make it cheap for lower income people.”
Yeah. Don’t bet on it. The government has always used magic books in which the cost of living is much lower than folks living in reality find it and dollars stretch for miles and miles. There will be a big gap between the people who get assistance and the people whose unavoidable, unmitigatable expenses really don’t leave them room to pay for an insurance policy.
But that’s not a problem specific to this new women’s preventive care regulation. That’s a problem with the whole bill, and it should be discussed in the context of that bill’s flaws and what we’re going to do about them.
I am also seeing rumors that women who get brand name pills may still have a co-pay if there’s a generic available, but I can’t find a source for this. It wouldn’t shock me.
So while this may reduce your monthly bills by a co-pay, it may raise the amount your employer deducts as your share of your insurance premium. Or it may reduce your next raise, because the employer can only afford to pay $X for you, and the premium has made another little dent into that amount. It should also be noted, however, that everyone who has insurance will be paying a tiny bit of your copay under this new regulation. The burden for all insurance-provided birth control will fall on consumers, but on all insurance consumers instead of just the women who are using birth control right this minute. That may actually reduce your expenses compared to what they would have been had the bill not included this regulation, or even had the bill never existed (I think skyrocketing premiums were probably going to happen no matter what over the next few years, but we’ll never know).
The regulation seeks to create a perception of freedom, however, and that’s important. If nothing is free, and it’s not, then this whole idea of “freedom” that the US clutches so tightly with its pearls is a bunch of crap, right? No, it’s a perception. No one has absolute freedom – various social and survival forces are pushing on every single one of us all the time, and that’s just life. Freedom is simply the lack of special oppression directed at particular groups of people.
This regulation creates a barrier between women and an insidious social force that’s been pushing down on us for a very long time. Financially speaking, it will not be free, and I apologize for getting caught up in the excitement and failing to emphasize that caveat. But it seeks to reduce that burden of special oppression women have experienced just for being women. It’s a step toward what we mean by “freedom.”