On Friday, President Obama announced an “accommodation” to those who object to his contraceptives mandate. Since then, I have been astonished at how many reporters have portrayed the president’s announcement as some sort of compromise, even though it would not reduce – not by one penny – the amount of money he would force Catholics and others with a religious objection to spend on contraception.
In fact, the only reporter who seemed to grasp this may also have been the first out of the box. The Washington Post’s Sarah Kliff:
“If a charity, hospital or another organization has an objection to the policy going forward, insurance companies will be required to reach out to directly offer contraceptive care free of charge,” one administration official explained…
Numerous studies have shown that covering contraceptives is revenue-neutral, as such preventive measures can lower the rate of pregnancies down the line…
“Contraceptives save a lot of money,” a senior administration official argued.
The catch here is that there’s a difference between “revenue neutral” and “free.” By one report’s measure, it costs about $21.40 to add birth control, IUDs and other contraceptives to an insurance plan. Those costs may be offset by a reduction in pregnancies. But unless drug manufacturers decide to start handing out free contraceptives, the money to buy them will have to come from somewhere.
Where will it come from, since neither employers nor employees will be paying for these contraceptives? That leaves the insurers, whose revenues come from the premiums that subscribers pay them. It’s difficult to see how insurance companies would avoid using premiums to cover the costs of contraceptives.
The Post’s subsequent coverage would have benefited from such scrutiny of the president’s spiel. If I missed such scrutiny in the Post or elsewhere, I hope someone will let me know.