Tag: contraception

Planned Parenthood’s War on Women

Over the last few weeks, a number of prominent Republicans have come out in favor of making the birth control pill available over the counter. This action has the support of the American Society of Obstetric and Gynecology. It would almost certainly bring prices down and obviate the need for women to make an expensive visit to the OB/Gyn to get birth control. It wouldn’t end the Culture War, but it would turn down the heat a bit.

There are reasons to be concerned: the “standard” pill isn’t appropriate for everyone and the wrong prescription can create serious health problems (a friend of mine developed a pulmonary embolism because of a bad scrip). But opposition is also coming from an unexpected source: Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood opposes over-the-counter contraception, pushing back against a popular Republican argument being used in many Senate races this year.

The nonprofit’s lobbying arm, which advocates for women’s reproductive health issues, argued that calls for allowing birth control pills to be sold without a prescription are “empty gestures.”

The policy change would “force women to go back to the days when they paid out of pocket for birth control — which can cost upwards of $600 a year,” Planned Parenthood Action Fund wrote on its website.

As has been pointed out, there are stores that sell birth control bills for as little as $10-20 a month. Furthermore, there is no power on Earth that can stop an insurer from covering birth control even if it is over-the-counter. In fact, there’s no reason the birth control mandate can not include reimbursement for OTC birth control (said mandate having been upheld for all but religious organizations and closely-held corporations). Going even further, the contraception mandate was justified by its supporters because some women need very specialized birth control or IUD devices. These would not be available over-the-counter as Planned Parenthood notes in their own statement. Nothing in this would destroy the Obamacare mandate. Nothing in this would stop women from getting birth control. All it would do is change how they get it.

Then there’s this gem:

The statement also noted that no prescription drug manufacturer has applied for their pills to be made available over the counter.

As one of my Twitter followers noted, spot the paradox! We can’t make it available over the counter because no one is asking for permission to sell over the counter this thing they legally can’t sell over the counter.

Of course, I’m sure this has nothing to do with Planned Parenthood themselves being a vendor of reproductive services and prescription birth control. Nothing whatsoever. And I’m sure it has nothing to do with the money they get from the federal government and state governments to provide birth control to poor women. And I’m sure it has nothing to do with their political arm wanting to maintain a “war on women” to raise money and campaign against Republicans. God forbid we should defuse that particular line of crap.

It’s funny. Planned Parenthood is an organization I agree with on a number of issues. But the way they approach the issues fills me with revulsion. They are stewed in Culture War rhetoric and a deep hatred of everything Republican. In this case, it has massively warped their vision. Making birth control available over the counter would do a lot to increase women’s access (especially for those who are uninsured). Planned Parenthood’s position is that they oppose it because REPUBLICANS.

If there’s a War on Women, Planned Parenthood is shooting at their own side.

A Payout to Big Pharma

Let’s repeat this before we start: the current debate is not about birth control. No one wants to abolish birth control, not even Rick Santorum. You think with all the mistresses and hookers the GOP has stashed away, they want to get rid of birth control? No, the debate is about a mandate, plain and simple. It’s about what government can and can not force insurers/employers to do.

But the furor has missed something important. As Avik Roy points out, the birth control mandate isn’t just a vote-buying scheme for women. It’s a huge payout to the Big Pharma companies that supported Obamacare.

Today, oral contraceptives are really cheap. At Wal-Mart, a one-month supply of Sprintec or Tri-Sprintec, manufactured by Barr Laboratories (a unit of Israeli drug giant Teva Pharmaceuticals) costs a grand total of $9.

Under the current system, drug companies have an incentive to compete on price. If you have health insurance that covers birth control today, your insurer is likely to charge you a higher co-pay for expensive, “branded” versions of birth control over cheaper, generic ones. If you don’t have health insurance, and you’re buying the Pill directly from the pharmacy at Wal-Mart, you have even more incentive to shop on price.

Under the new mandate, this price incentive disappears. Insurers will be required to pay for any and all oral contraceptives, without charging a co-pay, co-insurance, or a deductible. This “first dollar coverage” of oral contraception kills the incentive to shop based on price.

If history is any guide, this significant change will drive up the price of oral contraception. Today, Tri-Sprintec costs $9 a month. In 2020, don’t be surprised if it costs $30. Drug companies will be able to market “branded” contraceptives at premium prices, knowing that women are free to choose the most expensive, designer product because it will cost them the same as the cheapest generic. Prepare yourself for multi-million-dollar Super Bowl ad campaigns from competing manufacturers.

The Democrats simply refuse to understand the basic economics of the four ways money is spent. When you can spend somebody else’s money on yourself, you have no incentive to control costs. This is one of the key reasons our healthcare system is such a clusterfuck: the people consuming healthcare are disconnected from the people paying for it. No one has any incentives to control costs. And by promising 100% first-dollar coverage of birth control — no matter how much that birth control costs — the President is laying the groundwork for making this problem far far worse.

And that’s just looking at it from the side of “how much is this going to cost us”. The big story is the payout we are giving to Big Pharma in return for their support of Obamacare — a payout that could amount to billions. When George Bush refused to include price controls in Medicare Part D, he was pilloried for it and derided as an instrument of Big Pharama. But now we have a President giving a far more direct subsidy to pharmaceutical companies and not only is he not criticized for it, he is praised for his progressive insight and vision.

To hell with this Derrick Bell crap. Forget about Bill Ayers and Saul Alinsky. This is what matters. We have entire industries — banking, automotive, energy and pharmaceuticals — that are getting handouts and subsidies from our government. Obama didn’t start this nonsense, but he is making it worse. And this is not the path to prosperity, no matter how much the prospect of free birth control tickles the fancies of radical feminists.