Do We Even Understand What the Birth Control Debate Is?

Updated on February 19, 2012
J.B. asks from Boston, MA
22 answers

So...lots of questions and opinions flying around on this and it seems that people are up in arms over old news. The original issue was the the new health care act no longer exempted employers of "faith based organizations" (other than actual churches) from mandates to cover contraceptives in their insurance plans. The ability to not cover birth control effectively means that many religious institutions that don't cover contraceptives pay a much higher premium for insurance because each woman of child bearing age who is covered under the plan poses a substantial risk of getting pregnant and generating over $10K in pregnancy-related costs for the insurer. This was a cost that they were willing to bear.

When religious institutions got up in arms about being "forced" to provide a benefit that counters its core beliefs, the administration came up with a compromise where women under one of those plans could go directly to the insurer to get contraceptives covered. This way, the religious-based employer is not paying for the contraceptive and violating its beliefs. I haven't heard the insurance companies complaining about this - it's actually a good deal for them...they're collecting the higher premium because contraceptives aren't covered in the insurance pool, increasing pregnancy risk, and the cost of birth control is a fraction of that increased premium, so it makes sense to use some of that increased premium to cover birth control and further lower the risk of having to pay for pregnancy-related expenses.

So...why are people still up in arms about this? What is wrong with the compromise?

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So What Happened?

But Cheryl - they're not saying it has to be covered by the institution. They're saying that in cases where the institution chooses to exercise a religious exemption to deny coverage for something otherwise covered by law, the employees can get it elsewhere, through the insurer. Are you really arguing that employers should have *complete* discretion over everything in their plans and that there should be no laws at all regarding what insurance plans do and don't cover? Insurance isn't a free market where people are free to shop around for what they want. In an industry where access to insurance is largely dictated by employers, there have to be mechanisms in place to ensure some level of parity and equal access to coverage for basic services.

@ Christine S...people who have to use emergency care because they have no access to affordable preventative medicine are one of the biggest reasons for crushing health care costs. Who do you think pays for those ER visits when people can't pay? WE ALL DO. The hospitals cover what they can with government funding and then spread the rest of the cost difference around by charging patients and insurance companies enough to offset the "free" care costs. This is more expensive than just helping everyone get access to affordable preventative care. I had an uninsured relative who got in infection in his arm and because he had no health insurance, didn't get it looked at by a doctor. He finally sought medical care when he had crippling back pain and couldn't move. He had gotten a staph infection that had spread to his spine. Any idea how much it costs to treat a spinal staph infection? Hospital admission for a month, IV antibiotics for 2 or 3 more months, etc. All over something that a $10 antibiotic could have fixed. These kinds of stupid things happen every day with people who are poor and uninsured and it costs us all a staggering amount of money. Clearly, the "buy your own insurance or go to the ER" strategy hasn't worked for us as a country.

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answers from Orlando on

I have to say I have learned more this morning in this forum then the whole past week
All these post have make me feel guilty I don't know enough about politics.
Some days is hard to catch up with you ladies! lol

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Orlando on

I beleive it should be made available. Doesn't mean everyone has to use it. And no one should have to know you are using birth control. I don't have to go to my employer and tell them what Rx I'm taking. Its available so don't ask, don't tell. I grew up Catholic with all the narrow-mindedness about birth control. It made me rebel, and I was left without options. Which frustrated me that I was forced to seek out my own forms of birth control and made to feel ashamed because I did so.

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answers from Washington DC on

nothing. it's a sensible solution to a solvable problem.
but anything obama initiates is going to meet furious opposition. even when he does what his opponents furiously demanded.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

omg.... please make it stop...

6 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Good clarification. I think some people want to turn everything into a ridiculous exaggerated drama.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

After reading some of these answers, I think a lot of people have no concept or comprehension of this issue outside of whatever talking head they listen to. They are anti-birth control so insurers shouldn't pay for it. No amount of facts will change their mind.

It makes me sad.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

This issue becomes just another divisive talking point for those who don't believe in a government-mandated health insurance program and those who do. There are so many places where it would be ideal if the government didn't have to step in, but it is too often the case that those in power have the ability to run over the "little people" and no moral qualms against doing so.

The government now sees that the health care situation in this country is out of control and needs intervention. Much like a parent who has allowed their 16-year old to drive themselves to school only to find out that the child has started skipping classes and their grades are falling. Time to take the keys away.

In this instance, the government in mandating a certain level of health care coverage be offered by employers. When certain religious organization start balking at offering coverage for things against their beliefs, it opens a very dangerous door for employers to say I don't believe in this, that or the other and whittle away at the base level of coverage the government is trying to assure for ALL Americans. Let's just say contraceptives are a "gateway issue."

BTW, as a military dependent for most of my life, I have been the beneficiary of government-run healthcare and it has been a literal life-saver.

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answers from Chicago on

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for posting this, JB!!!!
As well as your responses below.
People get so infuriated by 5% of the arument that they're not willing to even try to understand the rest.
If only everyone took the time.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

I believe they did find a middle ground with this. The insurance companies will be all to willing to cover this. Mainly it's because the cost of birth control is much cheaper than the cost of a baby.

I think it's the ideology that has people up in arms as opposed to the actual problem. What funny is that both sides believe their freedoms are being taken away. The right side believes their choice of freedom from government interference with the churches rights are being violated. The left feels that womens rights are being violated. I think the answer is somewhere in the middle, which is I believe the answer that the Obama administration has come to realize. Thus they came up with the compromise.

However, people are still so outraged about the IDEA of about what COULD have happened, they still want to yell about it. That make sense? :)

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answers from New York on

The government is involved in a lot of things. A food company cannot put arsenic into breakfast cereal because the FDA regulates it. A drug company cannot put arsenic into aspirin because of the FDA. Airline pilots and air traffic controllers cannot drink on the job because of the FAA. A mining company cannot pour toxic chemicals into drinking water (at least not in theory) because of the EPA. Some random guy cannot stumble in off the street and start teaching kindergarten in a public school -- you need qualifications, background check, etc. Etc, etc, etc.

So why is it suddenly this terrible government intrusion for Americans to have equal access to preventative health care?

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answers from Kansas City on

I don't see a problem with birth control, a personal issue, but why would the government be involved in our bedrooms and personal issues? Why should it be 'free' anymore than our food be free or our houses be free or anything else we want? It's gone too far when the government is involved because then it's just a skip around the corner to mandate birth control like in China with the one child policy. That's why so many religious groups were upset about it plus that the Catholics don't believe in it as a church, but I would guess many Catholics use it against the church advice. The government should just stay as a governing body for the country and not personal lives. Insurance companies shouldn't have to pay it either. Why can't each person pay for it like we do other things? My opinion.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

I think this is a fairly presented summary of the discussion. I see nothing wrong with the compromise (other than my personal feeling that they shouldn't have compromised at all).

Employers are not forced to provide care that they apparently do not believe in. But women can get necessary health care. Why on earth should my employer have any stake in my personal life.

The law was changed several years ago (under George W Bush I believe) so that health insurance must also cover mental health care. No one seemed to upset that this might force a Christian Scientist to provide insurance to his/her employees that violates his beliefs (against anti psychotropic medications).

And it is FREE. Covering pregnancy costs more than covering contraception. The number of unwanted pregnancies prevented more than balances the cost of contraception. The insurance companies' own statistics support this. That is why we are not hearing yelling and screaming from the insurance companies on this issue.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Just commented on the other post about this but I have to jump in. I know some of you are saying "make it stop" but I don't think that should be your attitude when it comes to your own health care, but to each their own...

If people replaced birth control, in this argument, with say another prescription drug (because b.c is a precscription drug) then there would be no arguement. No one would be so mad about their company's premium or "socialism" or "big government". No, there would be no argument at all! So WTH does b.c. have to do with anybody else besides the person who wants to take it? No one is up in arms about viagra being offered. I mean why isn't the Catholic church mad about that? The priests practice celibacy, don't they? Doesn't that go against their beliefs?

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answers from Dallas on

I was about to post the same question. I don't get it...

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answers from Portland on

I think you have summarized the problem fairly. But it inevitably becomes an issue when people are worried that the change in policy might affect their religious freedom, or might increase the cost of their own health insurance. Politicians are nothing if not savvy about how to stir up public sentiment, and so they whip those sentiments into a fine fury, often including arguments that really don't make much sense, or are outright untrue. And an uninformed public sucks it all up, further confusing the arguments, like a game of Telephone.

I think the compromise is a good-faith attempt to meet needs on both sides of the argument, essentially allowing both religious freedom AND paying a reasonable expense of policyholders who need to control family size. I have heard an argument that including The Pill in everyone's insurance policy will drive up prices. As you point out, unplanned pregnancies are much more expensive to insurance companies.

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answers from Grand Rapids on

I have to answer about 2 things. First of all, as a private employer (my husband and my business) we do not provide coverage for contraceptives because it is at an additional cost, a rider to the health plan we provide for employees. This is true for most policies, blue cross, priority health etc.
Second, the real issue is the amount of control we are giving to our government. We are allowing the governemnt to override religious views, and that is a slippery slope to what the governement will/can do. Our county was founded on religious freedom and if we start chopping away at that, what is next. The real issue is not birth control. People have access..they can use other methods, purchase it out of pocket, or obtain a job with coverage outside of a religious institution.
Most people are being caught up in the birth control debate....that is not the real issue...

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answers from Chicago on

I do not understand why prevention is against religious beliefs thus I do not understand why this can not be covered. I respect the compromise, but I would like an actual answer that one can back up with proof as to WHY prevention is against God.

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answers from Miami on

The real problem is the government telling us what to purchase. First the government is telling religious institutions that they MUST purchase something going against a core belief of the religion. Then the compromise is that the religious institution doesn't have to purchase it, but the health insurance company MUST provide it. Again - another government mandate.

The government needs to get out of our personal lives. The government is created to provide for thing and services that we can not provide for ourselves. Thus, we do need for a government to provide for our national security - in the form of the military. However, we do not need government to tell us what we have to purchase.

One of the main arguments for the health care bill was to provide a basic minimum of health care to all. However, we already had that. We have medicaid for those who can't afford health coverage and we have medicare for the elderly and the disabled. Everyone else who wants health coverage should work and pay for it! No one is ever denied treatment at a public hospital ER because we have laws requiring ERs to accept any emergency case and treat that person without regards to insurance or payment.

I am with Suzanne and Cheryl. This has just gone way too far. Good job, Obama. Now I am voting for whoever is running against you!


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answers from Boston on

I think you summarized it quite well. I think the compromise is amazing considering the fact that it erodes employee rights to appropriate health care. I am concerned that if we give this right to Christian organizations, what about the Christian Scientist based organizations who want to stop covering mental health treatments or the Jehovah's Witness based organizations who want to stop covering transplants and blood transfusions. The fact that Christian organizations receive this level of control over employee health seems risky and unwise. But given that the compromise was reached I don't understand what additional issue there is.

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answers from Boston on

Most of these laws on contraception are mandated by man. Is there anything in health care plans that do NOT cover all facets of health care for men? I just don't see men, priest, bishops etc, jumping in saying have these babies and we will help you raise them; we will give you money to help you. It is said God created us equally and many women are now doing the jobs of men, but men still can't have babies AND if they could, you better believe they would want birth control covered for them so they wouldn't have to miss so many days of work; or maybe space the babies better.

So right now don't we cover all facets of health for men. why not women too? If women's health is going to be discussed, shouldn't women be on a board or panel to discuss the issues - unlike the panel of last week, again only men, who don't have women's issues?

1 mom found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

So say you don't drink beer, heck you don't even think other people should drink beer but live and let live, right? So the government comes along and says beer is good, it is a right and everyone should have beer. So every time you go to the grocery store they are adding a free case of beer to your groceries. Granted so that the store can pay their expenses and extra 1% has been added to the margin for all other groceries so everything held constant you are now paying on average 20 dollars more for your groceries.

But your beer is free.

You pour it down the drain or give it to your neighbor.

But it is free.

Sure you are paying more for your groceries but not the beer, it is free.

Do you see how you are still paying for the beer.

The issue is not paying for the birth control, they have money. The issue is being forced to offer birth control. Most of these institutions already offer birth control, it is about the government forcing them to violate their beliefs.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Sarasota on

I don't understand it at all. And frankly I just don't care right now. I don't have the extra time or energy to bother trying to understand and form an opinion.

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