Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Making Us Pay So Lindsay Lohan Can Get a Free IUD

On the heels of his unsuccessful attempt to raise taxes through the debt ceiling agreement, Obama has decided to lower everyone's take home pay another way, through regulation.  The Department of Health and Human Services just announced a new regulation which sounds all warm and fuzzy on the surface, but is in fact another in the long list of idiotic & costly government regulations.  It requires all new healthcare plans to cover, without the need for co-payment or any other form of cost-sharing, a number of services strictly for women (I guess since men tend to vote Republican, this administration doesn't really care as much about them):
  • well-woman visits;
  • screening for gestational diabetes;
  • human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA testing for women 30 years and older;
  • sexually-transmitted infection counseling;
  • human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) screening and counseling;
  • FDA-approved contraception methods and contraceptive counseling;
  • breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling; and
  • domestic violence screening and counseling.
I have no problem with women getting any of these services but why shouldn't they have to pay for it, even just a little bit?  It's not like any of these services are actually free, someone has to pay for it, you and me.  Wasn't Obamacare supposed to "bend the cost curve down"?  It's stupid regulations like this which is bending the cost curve up (even before this came out the Chief Actuary of Medicare said as much here).  It's simple economics which even Paul Krugman can understand.   By reducing the cost-sharing, premiums will go up that much more next year when businesses have to sign up for their plans.  That's taking money out of employers' pockets which hurts salaries, bonuses and, importantly, new hiring.  Why should we have to pay for contraception methods and counseling?  Isn't it their choice to have sex?  Why should I have to pay for their choices?  Health insurance is supposed to be about making sure you aren't financially ruined by a car accident or cancer, it's not to make sure that Lindsay Lohan has an IUD free of charge.  And the breastfeeding support and supplies?  Aren't breastfeeding mothers already saving tons of money by not buying uber expensive baby formula?    Why do we all need to pay for an additional incentive?  On the domestic violence screening, does that mean that if you are a man you have to pay a co-pay but if you are a woman you don't? 

Also, if you take this "it's so important it should be free" argument to its logical conclusion, what will have a co-pay going forward?  Why should I have to pay a co-pay for my kid's ear infections?  If I don't take him to the doctor, won't fluid build up in his ears, increasing the likelihood he will need tubes surgically inserted?  Also, why do ER visits have a higher copay?  Aren't they emergencies?  People might be holding off on getting treatment for serious injuries causing more serious complications down the road.  Shouldn't they be free based on Obama's logic?  There really is no end.

Prices are there for a reason.  It's a way to naturally limit resource use so costs don't go through the roof.  By making the price for the end user zero you will actually lead to overuse of a given resource.  People who don't need something will get it because its free.  Instead of asking their boyfriend/husband to go to the CVS to buy condoms they will get birth control pills from their doctor for free, something that is less expensive for that couple but more expensive for those of us actually paying for it.  It's not that complicated. 

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