The Contraceptive Mandate and Big Pharma

So here’s another perspective on the HHS mandate that all employer-based policies provide free oral contraceptives:

  • Oral contraceptives are really cheap.  A one-month supply of Sprintec is $9 at Walmart.  Women without insurance, it seems, could almost always easily afford that.  So too could an employee of some Catholic hospital that has been allowed to opt out of the mandate.  Is compromising the free exercise of religion to get that price down to free really worth it?
  • Why are oral contraceptives so cheap?  They are very inexpensive to manufacture.  And there’s no patent covering the relevant hormonal combination.
  • It’s been typical of insurance co-pays to be greater for “branded” over “generic” versions of oral contraceptives as part of a policy concerning drugs in general.  Generally speaking, there’s no difference in how the pills actually work.  So the insured person has every incentive to go generic, keeping the cost of health care down.
  • Providing oral contraceptives for free—especially with no insistence that generics be used—will drive their price up in various ways by making the insured person insensitive to their cost.  Women, for example, will have no reason not to choose the most expensive “branded” version of the product.  So the real price of health care, it seems, will go up significantly for no good reason. That means, of course, insurance costs will go up too.
  • The mandate in question is actually a huge stimulus package for BIG PHARMA. Is this why the huge drug companies were all for Obamacare?
  • Surely we can no longer afford—actually, we never could afford—to act on the principle that health insurance should provide various kinds of health care for free.  Health insurance should be for large and especially catastrophic costs.  Wouldn’t it be better—by driving both health care and insurance costs down—to allow people to pay routine, low costs themselves?  That’s why WHOLE FOODS provides its employees something like a $2K-deductible policy and a health savings account for ordinary medical expenses.
  • Wouldn’t it be better just to eliminate the tax break that makes it attractive for employers to provide health care?  Isn’t that the only way to end what will otherwise be an endless controversy involving institutional religion?
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