Amidst the explosion of justifiable online rage over the Supreme Court Hobby Lobby ruling, it’s worth remembering one thing: subsidizing birth control saves taxpayers money.
Many supporters of the Supreme Court ruling noisily claim that they’re opposed to insurance-covered contraception because it will cost them money. “But I don’t want to paaaayyy for it!” they say. “Self-actualized adults should pay for their own medical care!”
Cute idea, I suppose, if you never quite outgrew that extravagantly selfish Ayn Rand phase. But this “fiscally conservative” stance happens to be unsupported by fact.
Let’s refer back to a 2011 Brookings Institution study, which found that unintended pregnancies are expensive: really expensive. Researchers found that US taxpayers shell out about $12 billion annually for unintended pregnancies.
And there’s a lot of them: almost half of all US pregnancies are not expected, a proportion that hits 60 percent when one is dealing with teenaged, unmarried, or low income women.
While the numbers are grim, there’s an easy solution: public policy that hits the problem on multiple fronts, including access to inexpensive birth control. Per Brookings: “There is strong evidence that expansions in access to publicly subsidized family planning services can affect rates of contraceptive use and unintended childbearing.”
Ok, but what about those poor, long-suffering insurance companies?
It’s true that it’s less clear if insurance companies themselves save money on providing contraception. Factcheck.org concludes that evidence is distinctly murky either way, eventually concluding that while the President’s contention that contraceptive insurance will pay for itself cannot currently be proven right, it’s also impossible to prove it wrong.
Most evidence certainly seems to suggest that the up-front costs of providing coverage are minimal. US government data claims adding contraceptions to an insurance coverage planwould only increase premiums by 0.5% annually, while a 2011 study estimated a cost of $26 per enrollee per female.
I believe many of us happily spend that much per week on fast food, and it’s a particularly low cost to take into account when one contemplates how expensive unplanned pregnancies are for everyone.
Does even that small amount of money sound usurious and cruel to you? I weep, but I will also point out that you probably do pay taxes. Which means that the $12 billion in expenses Brookings documented will come out of your pocket eventually, one way or another.
What’s more: all kinds of basic preventative care cost insurers money. These would include measures that get a lot less frothy media play, such as basic cancer screening, cholesterol drugs, routine checkups, and other boringly quotidian measures. This is done because a wise collective risk pool prefers to spend a little money now rather than lot of money later. That applies to major health events from heart attacks to — yes — unintended pregnancies.
There’s also the fact that American women themselves seem to have saved an immense amount of money on contraception since Obamacare came into play. A recent IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics study found that women saved $483 million in out of pocket contraceptive costs in 2013 alone.
If one operates under the at-times-controversial notion that sexually active women are legitimate taxpayers like everyone else, that means a very substantial portion of the population is finding subsidized birth control to be wonderfully thrifty.
And the money those women are saving will help them improve their lives, in many ways beyond a less stress-filled sex life. A 2013 Guttmacher study documents the positive improvements women reported in their own lives due to contraceptive access, while there’s profuse evidence from around the world documenting how access to family planning services improves the lives of everyone — women and men included.
Finally, many women use birth control pills for reasons that have nothing to do with being a Big Slutty Slut — myself included. They’re used for painful and disfiguring medical conditions from polycystic ovary syndrome to cystic acne to dangerously heavy menstrual periods.
Here, of course, is where it gets tricky. Many women, per Guttmacher, use the pill for both medical reasons and for its contraceptive capabilities. If you’re a proponent of a small, un-intrusive government, you should agree that I’d rather not have my insurance company monitoring my house or covertly rummaging through my trash for signs of an active sex life.
So, let me ask you again, “fiscally conservative, small government” defenders of Hobby Lobby: why do you want to cost the taxpayer money? Why do you want to potentially invade women’s privacy?
And if you admit that you don’t actually care about the well-documented savings contraceptive access provides, then what really bothers you about birth control pills?