Wednesday, March 7, 2012

It's Not About Who Writes The Check—Stop The Republican Lie About Who Pays For Contraceptives

Jonah Goldberg wrote a piece about the current contraceptive debate in which he opined:
"For Democrats, there's no room for anybody to be personally opposed to paying for someone else's birth control."
This letter to the editor of nj.com sums it up thusly:
"[T]he only prudent argument in the debate is: Who is responsible for paying for any woman’s choice of which form they use? Should it be borne by the user, or by those who have no say in the choice?" 
And in his now-infamous rant, Rush Limbaugh called college student Sandra Fluke a slut and a prostitute because:
"...the women in her law school program are having so much sex that they're going broke, so you and I should pay for their birth control ... What does it say about the college co-ed Sandra Fluke, who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex, what does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She's having so much sex she can't afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex.
These statements opposing contraceptive coverage in insurance plans based on the allegation that "other people"—one's employer, one's university, religious institutions, etc.—will be paying for insured women's birth control is, to put it bluntly, crap.

It's a straw man argument designed to distract from the fact that the mandate to include contraceptive coverage in all insurance plans isn't about who pays at all, but about once and for all ending discrimination in women's health care.

But since "who pays" is the argument they're making, and all counter-arguments about discrimination fall on deaf ears, it becomes necessary to turn their straw man into the heaping pile of hay that it is, by exposing just who the "who" is in the "who pays" scenario ... and it isn't who they claim.


THE PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE ACT—A 42-YEAR-OLD REPUBLICAN LAW

First, we need to clarify that the notion that taxpayers are the ones paying for "other people's" birth control under the new Affordable Care Act is utterly incorrect. The Act that calls for taxpayers to pay for other people's contraceptives was enacted in 1970 by Republican President Richard M. Nixon, who established Title X under the Public Health Service Act, which provides coverage for uninsured, low-income women to receive taxpayer-funded gynecological exams and contraception.

So taxpayers have been paying for "other people's" contraceptives for 42 years now under a law written by a Republican president that received overwhelming bi-partisan support in Congress. And not once in over four decades has anyone on the Republican side called for repealing Title X because they objected to paying for other people's birth control. Not once.

No, the Limbaughs and their followers only became apoplectic over "forced payment for other people's birth control" when the Catholic church vocally opposed the mandate that insurance policies they negotiated on behalf of their employees include contraceptive coverage under the new health care law that Republicans have dubbed "Obamacare."

So are churches, religious institutions and other "conscientious objectors" really being forced to "pay for other people's birth control" under the new mandate?

IT'S NOT ABOUT WHO WRITES THE CHECK

University students who are covered by student insurance policies pay their own premiums for those policies. All their university does is negotiate a group discounted rate on the students' behalf. Here is how Sandra Fluke's school, Georgetown University, explains it:
To improve the health and wellness of the community, Georgetown University (GU) requires most students registered as full-time in a degree program to have health insurance. Most full-time students are charged once during the academic year for the Premier Plan underwritten by United HealthCare Insurance Company (United) designed specifically for GU students. This requirement assures some relief of the burden of expensive health care and instills within the students the lifetime responsibility of obtaining quality health insurance.
Georgetown University will not be paying for contraceptives because the new health care law mandates insurance policies include contraceptives in their coverage. The students who are required to take out those policies will be the "who" who pays for them—through their premiums, even if it's the university who writes the check to the insurance carrier.

Employees who have insurance policies through their employers are also paying for their own insurance—100 percent. When a person takes a job with a company that offers health insurance to their employees, it is part of a total compensation package in consideration for the work the employee will be performing. Part of their compensation comes to them in the form of a paycheck, part of it may go to a retirement fund on their behalf, and part of it gets sent to an insurance company on the employee's behalf. Every penny of those payments are earned by the worker, making the "who" who pays for contraception in employee health care plans, the employee themselves, not their employer.

It does not matter that the employer is writing the checks (or making the electronic transfers) to the insurance companies for the employee's monthly premium. That's just a courtesy that makes it easier for the insurer to hold down costs because they won't have to process all those individual payments.


In every case where the debate is about an insured individual, it is always the individual "who pays."

Always.

To take a page out of media strategist Frank Luntz's Handbooks on using language to win the debate:

NEVER SAY: "Employer paid health insurance," ALWAYS SAY: "Employee earned health insurance."

Always.



REFERENCES AND ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING

Title X: Three Decades of Accomplishment ~ Special Analysis by The Guttmacher Report on Public Policy
Rush Limbaugh's Comments and Sandra Fluke's Testimony - Fact vs. Fiction ~ By Linda Lowen, About.com
Student Health Insurance: Premier Plan Enrollment and Waiver Information ~ at Georgetown University
Birth control agitprop ~ By Jonah Goldberg at American Enterprise Institute
Birth control debate is over who pays ~ From letters to the editor/Gloucester County Times



"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." ~ Anne Frank

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