I have been following the birth control debate since its humble beginnings as a seemingly harmless mandate. I watched said “harmless” mandate whip Catholic oligarchy into a frenzy. I listened to the jokes, the rhetoric and have heard the “war on women” argument more times than I care to count on both hands and both feet. Yet, despite the hemming, the hawing and the rhetoric surrounding this issue, no one that I can see has stopped to run the numbers, nor has anyone stopped to ask why this is an issue at all (not really, anyway). Instead of getting caught up in the whirlwind of partisanship on this issue, I gook the path of fiscal empowerment; I started digging a little deeper.
Doctor Knows Best
On my last doctor’s visit, I took an opportunity to open a dialogue with my physician. I asked her opinion on the federal mandate and subsequent debate.
She told me that the majority of group plans covered most forms of birth control already, and that insurance plans covered short-term options and long-term solutions alike. She was frustrated with people claiming that birth control was “out of reach”. She told me that most patients could get the pill for an average cost of $30 per month, without insurance. She went on to explain that the enforcement of the mandate would cause a domino-like effect of premium increases. I wanted to see if she was right, so I began running numbers.
Breaking down the basics
When you buy into a group plan or policy, the costs are shared amongst that group. The more people need drugs or health care, the more the premiums increase –this isn’t complicated stuff, folks. Since it’s impossible to dissect all different policies and plans, I went with a straight kitchen table average mathematical review.
Breaking it down
I started by going to the U.S. Census Bureau website to start my research. The numbers say women account for half of the 313 million-person population, meaning that there are about 155 million women in the US today. Out of those, approximately 37 million women were under 18 and 46 million were over age 65. In the spirit of fairness, I took these out of my equation. Now, I was looking at birth control coverage for about 72 million women -give or take.
Birth control pills cost $15 to $50 a month. Since that seems to be the most widely debated form of contraception, I averaged the cost and came up with $32.50 per month ($390 per year) as my baseline.
Using the 72 million-woman estimate, I began my calculations. If 72 million women needed $32.50 per month for birth control, that is a comprehensive price tag of $28 trillion dollars.
If we spread the cost among the 141 million individual tax returns filed in 2010, the cost for birth control would be $199 dollars per tax-paying American, per year ($16.58 per month). Sounds reasonable enough, right? It almost sounds like an average copay, doesn’t it?
But wait. What happens when you add the cost for more expensive birth control options like IUD’s, implants and sterilization? These procedures are in excess of $1,000, which would be a larger increase to annual premiums and costs. Thereby, if half of the women in my equasion went with the more expensive route, the total price tag goes up to $57 trillion dollars or $33 per month per tax paying American -on average. Seems to me as if cost wise, everyone breaks even. So where exactly is the benefit here? How exactly is birth control “free”? Because, ladies and gents, employer sponsored health plans won’t be picking up the tab out of their philanthropic little hearts.
Further, with birth control costs now outside of the market, pharmaceutical companies are free to inflate costs to bill insurance companies more money. All of that means increasing premiums, no matter who your employer is. And if we add birth control coverage for women ages 12 – 18, the cost literally doubles –and could, indeed, triple.
The Bottom Line
The word “free” might sound dandy, but the mandate doesn’t cover already available over the counter options like condoms, diaphragms or spermicides. And no manner of mandated free birth control protects against STD’s -for which you’d need to purchase condoms anyway.
The bottom line is that free birth control isn’t free, for anyone; it’s just a fee taken from a different pot of money. In essence, if it isn’t broken, don’t debate it. Saying that I don’t want to pay a higher insurance premium for your “free” birth control makes me about as “anti-woman” as saying my lack of desire to pay for your dinner makes me “anti-food”. In the end, it’s really quite simple, if you don’t want the government legislating your uterus, don’t expect them to pass laws favoring it either. You can’t have it both ways.
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