Sebelius Wastes No Time Making Costly Birth Control Free
Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the pro-abortion, “Catholic” former Governor of Kansas, announced today that birth control will be provided as part of all insurance plans at no cost to women. This comes less than two weeks after the Institute of Medicine (IOM) issued a report recommending that the “full range of Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity” be provided at no cost and without co-pays. This is part of a series of recommendations that the IOM provided HHS with regard to the no-cost preventive services for women. Pro-life organizations condemned the findings both during the IOM hearings and after they were published because pregnancy is not a disease to be prevented. While the announcement itself had been expected, the timing was unusual. Even though Sebelius informally promised a judgment by August 1st, what is surprising is that she took very little time to review the IOM report prior to making a decision. In this case, it appears that the decision was already made; the IOM recommendation was a mere formality.
Planned Parenthood has lobbied extensively to include contraceptives as covered preventive health care measures. They applauded the IOM recently by telling their supporters that the government was on the “verge of securing birth control with no co-pays for millions of women.” As the Governor of Kansas, Sebelius was the darling of Planned Parenthood, and she has continued in that capacity as HHS Secretary. She vetoed pro-life legislation in 2003, 2005, 2006, and 2008. Furthermore, she credits Planned Parenthood, along with the late-term abortionist, the late George Tiller, for a substantial part of her fundraising as governor.
This new measure is costly—at a time when the government purportedly is trying to rein in spending. The Guttmacher Institute, Planned Parenthood’s research arm, reports that in 2006 it cost $106 annually in public funds for contraceptive services and supplies per woman in need. For the 7 million Medicaid women using birth control, this amounts to over $800 million in government-provided contraception. Of course, provision of contraceptives to Medicaid patients will be unaffected by these changes because Medicaid patients already do not pay a co-pay for medical services rendered.
On the other hand, the same report indicated that in 2008, there were 36 million women in need of contraceptives who were not Medicaid patients but who were using private health insurance plans. These are women of reproductive age who are sexually active and do not want to become pregnant. The overall cost of the contraceptive services utilized by these women is over $3.8 billion, of which over $1.3 billion is currently covered by the patients’ co-pay funds (assuming $35/co-pay). As the government further places the burden of “preventive services for women” on private health plans, the additional cost of eliminating co-pays for those seeking contraception comes to at least $1.3 billion (as stated above); this huge sum will be “paid for” through increased insurance premiums for all individuals in private insurance plans.
Ultimately, free birth control is not free at all. Besides the enormous additional sum that will be diffused through the health-care overhead of the country, the cost of birth control may also be measured physically. If we take into account the many side effects of hormonal contraceptives, including breast cancer, we see that this decision will have compound ramifications far beyond its financial impact on our fragile economy.
There is an alternative: Natural Family Planning (NFP) programs around the country provide an effective non-contraceptive means of postponing pregnancies. Of course, NFP requires individual responsibility, self-control, respect for the dignity of others, and virtuous decisions—behaviors this current administration is loath to embrace and which are not readily apparent in the citizenry at large.
Bob Laird is a fellow at HLI America and is the former Director of Tepeyac Family Center. He writes from Lorton, VA. His recent publications can be found at the HLI America’s Truth and Charity Forum.