OPINION

Opinion: Obamacare's Emphasis On Contraception Without Co-Pay Is Political Ploy, Not Health Initiative

390565 01: A woman holds prescription contraceptives June 13, 2001 in Seattle, Washington. A federal judge ruled on that Bartell Drug Co., which operates 50 drug stores in the Seattle region must pay for prescription contraceptives, like the birth control pills shown here, for its female employees. The class-action suit was brought against Bartell Drug Co. by Jennifer Erickson, a 27 year-old pharmacist with the company, and may lead employers across the country to do the same. (Photo by Tim Matsui/Getty Images)

390565 01: A woman holds prescription contraceptives June 13, 2001 in Seattle, Washington. A federal judge ruled on that Bartell Drug Co., which operates 50 drug stores in the Seattle region must pay for prescription contraceptives, like the birth control pills shown here, for its female employees. The class-action suit was brought against Bartell Drug Co. by Jennifer Erickson, a 27 year-old pharmacist with the company, and may lead employers across the country to do the same. (Photo by Tim Matsui/Getty Images)  (Getty)

As a physician for mainly lower income patients I am living and working on the frontlines of Obamacare. Our office staff must navigate the complexities of the new plans, and we learned all about huge deductibles and seemingly arbitrary subsidies, as well as needed drugs now unavailable. I have helped troubled patients find a new doctor or a new cancer treatment center on their suddenly reduced but more expensive plan. I have some patients that were previously uninsured and now have health insurance, but are distressed about it, since they don’t qualify for subsidies. Their deductibles are so high that they are paying out of pocket anyway for their routine care, plus they are paying their new monthly premiums. 

Many women, much like men, would much rather use their own money to occasionally buy an over-the-counter drug than see the Greens (owners of Hobby Lobby) have to violate their conscience.

- Grazie Pozo Christie

What I haven’t encountered is a single woman worried about her contraceptive coverage. The disconnect on this issue, between the Administration (and its supporters in the media) and women in real life is huge. This week the hysteria in the media was incredible after the Supreme Court ruled that Hobby Lobby did not have to include some abortifacient contraceptives in the health insurance they offer their employees. While the Supreme Court felt that the government could find means of showering women with free contraceptives without violating the religious rights of family owned corporations, the media is describing this as “denying women their preventive care”. 

The facts are otherwise. First of all, there is no new barrier to access. Hobby Lobby, for instance, provides 16 different types of contraceptives on their generous insurance plan. They only object to 4, which prevent the implantation of the embryo, making it an early abortion. Those four drugs can be obtained over the counter, without a prescription, even by young teenagers. Any thinking woman can understand that her access to these drugs is not limited by having to occasionally dip into her own pocket. Many women, much like men, would much rather use their own money to occasionally buy an over-the-counter drug than see the Greens (owners of Hobby Lobby) have to violate their conscience.

However, if the ability to receive free contraception is such a national priority the Administration can surely find a way to do this without violating our religious freedom. Actually according to the bipartisan Religious Freedom Restoration Act they must find the LEAST restrictive way.    

The other fact concerns the term “preventive care”. The ACA stipulates that preventive care must be included without copay in all plans, but the HHS arbitrarily decided (after the fact) that this also included 20 kinds of contraceptives. To physicians and their patients, whether men or women, preventive care means mammograms, vaccines, and prostate cancer screening tests, which prevent cancer and infections. Contraception, or birth control pills and Plan B, prevent children, not diseases. 

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This emphasis on providing contraception without a co-pay to women is a political ploy, not a health initiative. It allows the administration to sound the “war on women” theme, when conscience rights claims are inevitably made against the troubled law. Certainly the HHS knew that Catholic organizations like the Little Sisters of the Poor would strenuously object, and they were looking forward to it. A telling point: where is the rousing cry of a “war on men?” Vasectomies and condoms were left out of “preventive care” entirely, even though they also prevent children. Doesn’t this conversely indicate a war on men?

It is no wonder that people across the country are fed up with government and politicians in general. The real life concerns that all of them face, like finding a paying job, an adequate school for their children, and a safe neighborhood to live in, are not being addressed. Instead we have strident politicians, many of them women, telling us that women’s first concern is getting someone else to pay for their contraception. That is just not true.           

Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie specializes in radiology in the Miami area and serves on the advisory board for The Catholic Association.

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