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March 05, 2012

This Is How It's Done

Youtube in honor of Debra Saunders, who clearly knows how to articulate the conservative objection to taxpayer subsidized (free) birth control:

Abortion used to be a matter of choice. Ditto birth control. But now that they have considerable political power, the erstwhile choice advocates want to take away the choice of dissenters to opt out.

Choice is gone. Tolerance is musty memory. "Access" is the new buzzword -- and access means free. Under Obamacare, employer-paid health plans can charge women copayments for necessary and vital medical services if they are seriously ill, but birth control is free.

Fluke did address Congress. She observed: "Conservative Catholic organizations have been asking (us) what did we expect when we enrolled at a Catholic school. We can only answer that we expected women to be treated equally, to not have our school create untenable burdens that impede our academic success."

I cannot imagine how a Georgetown law student could expect the Catholic Church to treat women equally. It doesn't let women be priests.

What is more, Fluke asserted that if students have to go out and get their own birth control -- because they chose to attend a Catholic institution -- that hurts their grades. Therefore, Washington must force religious institutions to go against their deeply held beliefs and hand out birth control, if indirectly.

Washington has accomplished a great leap, from a plea for choice to a roar of entitlement.

No doubt, this approach works well with intolerant liberals who want to impose their views on others. But it is enough to cause some of us social moderates, who worry about the encroachment on religious and personal liberty, to go into the loving arms of social conservatives.

It's not hard to counter Ms. Fluke's flimsy arguments without resorting to name calling. Her argument essentially boils down to, "People Women are having trouble coming up with the money for a single medication. Therefore, the federal government must provide that medication (at taxpayer expense) in the name of fairness."

So let's talk about fairness. I am a working woman. I am also a migraine sufferer.

Since I was Ms. Fluke’s age, my migraines have been so severe and so frequent that for nearly two decades I was on a prophylactic (as in "preventative", though I find the double meaning particularly apt in this case) daily medication. This medication reduced the frequency of my headaches from 20-25 days a month to 3 or 4. It allowed me to function in a way most people take for granted.

But when I got a migraine, it did nothing to reduce the pain or control the nausea. So I needed a second medication to deal with pain and nausea: Imitrex tablets. There's just one problem. Because my husband’s health care plan was run by the federal government, it was far more difficult than it should have been for me to get a prescription. What should have been automatic took years of fighting and complaints. I had to submit my request to a medical board to get the very same medication civilians were routinely prescribed.

In the meantime, every month or so my husband ended up rushing me to the emergency room, usually after 2 to 3 days of agony during which I was unable to keep even a glass of water down.

The thing is, using the medical benefits my husband earned was our choice. No one forced us to go through the military health care system. We had options, but decided (for once) to spend our money on decent schools for our two boys rather than on out of pocket medical expenses. This was the only time we did so during my husband's active service, and there's a good reason for that.

So, did the Navy's penny wise, pound foolish policy with respect to Imitrex save the federal government money? I doubt it. The bill for an ER visit (which is all that was available without an advance appointment) was far higher than what it would have cost the Navy to simply prescribe a medication civilian doctors had the freedom to give their patients.

This wasn't the Navy's fault, by the way. Mind numbing red tape brought to you courtesy of federal waste, fraud, and abuse regulations is what happens when the federal government hands out (and thus controls access to) "free" health care. Medical decisions are taken out of the hands of doctors, patients, and insurance companies and put into the hands of medical boards.

Eventually after months of waiting my request was approved. My doctor was incredibly frustrated by the process. She couldn't believe a patient who had already tried every medication out there was put through such a ludicrous ordeal.

Recently, I was able to wean myself off the daily meds. This is a good thing, as the side effects were almost worse than the original malady. I now have far fewer headaches than at any time during the past 25 years. As a consequence, though, the few headaches I do get are far more severe than they used to be. So much so that injectable Imitrex is the only thing that stops them.

So even with what Obama calls a "Cadillac health care plan", I gladly pay a deductible of several hundred dollars every Jan. 1st, with a monthly co-pay of $100 for a grand total of about $1500 a year.

Now last time I checked, there are no clinics handing out free or discounted injectable Imitrex though without it, I would not be able to hold a job. Yet you don't see me asking the federal government to subsidize my preventative care. And you never will. You don't see me arguing that my "need" for this medication is something the federal government must address.

If we extend Ms. Fluke's ”need based” arguments to everyone who has an expensive medical condition, simple "fairness" dictates that everyone should get the care they need for free. What makes women's contraception a special case when there are people with far worse (and far more expensive) conditions than migraines. Surely their needs matter too?

Doesn't Ms. Fluke care about them?

Nowhere in Ms. Fluke's testimony does she explain why it is "fair" for women (but not men) to get free contraceptives. Nowhere does she explain why women should be exempted from the deductibles and co-pays the rest of us have to pay out of our pockets. Nowhwere in her testimony does she explain why only women's contraception is covered. Let's not forget that the Pill does NOTHING to prevent STDs, yet condoms are not covered by ObamaCare. If it's in the public interest to prevent pregnancies, isn't it equally in the public interest to prevent STDs and diseases like AIDS from spreading?

Nowhere does she explain how handing out free medication to a special interest group helps the federal government hold down health care spending.

These are all questions her critics could and should be asking. Instead, some of them seem obsessed with calculating how many condoms (did I mention they’re not covered by ObamaCare? I'm sure I must have) can be purchased for $3000 or gleefully speculating about how many times a day Ms. Fluke (who said not a word during her testimony about her own sex life or contraceptive bills) has sex.

For most of my husband’s 30 years of military service, I paid our family’s medical expenses out of my own pocket rather than wrestle with the frustrating bureaucracy that results from federally managed health care. Unlike Ms. Fluke, my husband earned his health care benefit by serving this country for three decades. So I don't have a whole lot of sympathy for a student at Georgetown law who "can't afford" (if you accept Ms. Fluke's laughable estimate of $3000 for 3 years) an expense of under 20 dollars a week. I know college students who spend that much on Starbucks.

Nor is relative poverty an excuse. My husband, son, and I lived well below the poverty level for the first few years of our marriage. That’s a fairly common scenario for married college students. But then no one forced us to marry or have a child. We had NO medical insurance, but were easily able to save enough money to pay our medical expenses (which included 9 months of pre-natal care and a hospital delivery) from our savings. And that's with only one of us working. I stayed home to watch our infant son.

A lifetime of federally managed health care has taught me that there is nothing more frustrating than feeling like your options are being dictated by a large bureaucracy that isn't the least bit afraid of losing your business (and therefore has little incentive to fix things when they go wrong). I love my civilian insurance. I cheerfully pay my $100 monthly co-pay and choose from a wide array of doctors who compete for my business. If I am dissatisfied with my care, I can fire them.

There are many fine and dedicated military medical professionals. My brother in law is one. But the system is broken. I'll never go back voluntarily to a system where I have fewer choices and less control over my own health than I do in the free market.

Posted by Cassandra at March 5, 2012 06:38 AM

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...some of them seem obsessed with calculating how many condoms (did I mention they’re not covered by ObamaCare? I'm sure I must have) can be purchased for $3000....

This is why I ridiculed Ms Fluke's testimony. She's not a serious participant in the discussion.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at March 6, 2012 03:54 PM

I would have been surprised if you were one of the rubber counters :p

Posted by: Cassandra at March 6, 2012 04:28 PM