So far the battle over the Obama administrations contraceptive mandate has been described as another front in the so-called “culture wars” between social conservatives and, well, everybody else. I think that’s inaccurate. I am not a social conservative. I’m a social libertarian, but while I have no moral objection to these contraceptives, I do have an objection to law which requires that one group of people purchase them for another group of people especially when the latter group has a moral/religious objection.
But one aspect of this debate that has been little talked about is the economic freedom at stake. After the initial controversy over this mandate broke, President Obama announced an “accommodation” which would require health insurance companies to provide contraceptive coverage for free when a given employer objects to paying for it.
Does the federal government really have the authority to order a private company to give away its products for free? And what about the hit insurance companies will take from providing that free coverage?
The trade group America’s Health Insurance Plans has limited its comments to saying it worries about the “precedent” the mandate would set. The concern is that the government could eventually require health plans to cover any number of preventive services – even prescription drugs – without copays or deductibles, under the theory that they save money in the long-term.
Privately, however, insurers say there’s nothing “free” about preventing unwarranted pregnancies. They say the mandate also covers costly surgical sterilization procedures, and that in any case even the pill has up-front costs.
“Saying it’s revenue-neutral doesn’t mean it’s free and that you’re not paying for it,” an industry source told The Hill.
If there is one fundamental truth in life, it is that nothing is free. The President cannot wave a magic wand and make contraceptive coverage free. It has cost, and insurance companies will have to build that cost into their prices for other coverage. Meaning that all of us, up to and including the religious organizations that object to contraceptive coverage, will be paying for it.
Now, again, the left would like this to be a debate over whether or not contraceptives are moral, which is a debate they would win because most Americans (sorry Catholics) use contraceptives and don’t think of themselves as immoral. But that’s not what this debate is about.
This debate is about whether the government can force you to pay for contraceptives, or if you’re an insurance company, whether or not the government can force you to provide certain services free of charge. The government has no more business forcing us to buy contraceptive coverage, or forcing insurance companies to provide it, than they would mandating purchases of Chevy Volts.