- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 11, 2011

To understand how the Obama administration is running America into the ground, consider the Department of Health and Human Services‘ (HHS) Aug. 1 decree ordering, essentially, free birth-control pills for all women. Through this brand-new entitlement - announced the very day when Congress voted to “reduce” the national debt - Washington mandates more giveaways, not just to poor women, but to every American female, regardless of employment, income or trust fund.

By Aug. 1, 2012, Obamacare will require insurers to cover birth-control pills. Further, HHS‘ guidelines state that health plans may not “charge a patient a co-payment, coinsurance, or deductible.” Thus, birth-control pills will be free to women. This goodie is neither focused nor affluence-tested. If Kim Kardashian and Katie Couric want birth-control pills, by Jove, they will get them free, too. Indeed, by hyperactively demanding such services for women of all means, Team Obama will squander scarce resources and, perversely, misdirect funds that could help needy women so that Paris Hilton can get her freak on, gratis.

Most federally funded, state-run Medicaid programs already finance birth-control pills for poor women, usually free or with co-payments as low as $1. So, this new regulation shifts these negligible costs and extends these gifts to middle-class and prosperous females.

“Women currently pay between $15 and $50 a month in co-pays for birth control pills - which equals $180 to $600 a year!” a writer named Serena complained July 30 on Feminists for Choice’s website. Even that higher figure bankrupts no one, and 48 cents to $1.61 seems like a reasonable daily price for hot, pregnancy-free sex.

Why on earth is the Obama administration forbidding the recovery of some of the expense for birth-control pills from well-heeled women? As with other benefits that insurers are compelled to offer - but now with neither co-payments nor deductibles to help absorb that burden - government will lob that cost onto everyone else who does not use those services. Free pills for all women; higher premiums for all.

Obamacare’s perks go far beyond the pill. According to HHS guidelines, insured women can demand all of the following, free of co-payment, independent of income:

  • Well-woman visits to doctors, including preconception and prenatal care.
  • Human papilloma virus tests.
  • Counseling on sexually transmitted infection.
  • HIV counseling and screening.
  • “All Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity.”
  • “Breastfeeding support, supplies and counseling. Comprehensive lactation support and counseling, by a trained provider during pregnancy and/or in the postpartum period, and costs for renting breastfeeding equipment.”

Mr. Obama’s mandate likely will decelerate rather than turbocharge the pharmaceutical conveyor belt for new and improved contraceptives.

“When the Health and Human Services Department is monitoring and perhaps indirectly dictating health insurance premiums, the government will impose significant pressure for drug companies to keep higher-cost pills ‘affordable,’ since the government will pay for them,” explains Dr. Merrill Matthews, a resident scholar at Dallas’ Institute for Policy Innovation. “That trend would discourage contraceptive innovation because pharmaceutical companies could not recapture their R&D costs.”

So, what about men? Where are the free condoms? Why must males pay for HIV tests, while women soon won’t? Female tubal ligation will be free of co-payments. Men who get vasectomies had better bring their wallets.

Also troubling: Mr. Obama’s new mandate will force pro-life Americans to pay the indirect cost of birth-control pills, some of which could act as abortifacients that kill embryos by preventing their attachment to uterine walls. These rules likewise will compel homosexual Americans to underwrite birth-control pills that only benefit practicing heterosexuals. Social justice, anyone?

Thanks to Obamacare, Americans “with cancer, a heart ailment, or a major injury will face co-pays and deductibles, but anyone who wants to go on the Pill or rent breastfeeding equipment won’t incur any personal cost - and nobody will be free to decide otherwise,” Jeffrey Anderson laments at Aug. 4’s WeeklyStandard.com. “This is what politicized medicine looks like.”

Deroy Murdock is a columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with Stanford’s Hoover Institution.