Thursday, February 16, 2012

All things Insurance

What’s new Today

Our #1 story looks at contraception to see if it actually reduces the number of unintended pregnancies.  #2 looks at what’s being said in the battle between the White House and the Vatican.  #3 switches us back to the other controversy in Obamacare, the mandate.  #4 looks at health insurance and goes back to the purpose of insurance to see how reasonable it is to have birth control paid for by health insurance.  #5 finishes up looking at a new possible abridgement of the Medicare system.

1.   Does Contraception reduces unintended pregnancies

Contraception reduces unintended pregnancies" has joined its fantastic make-believe friends "death with dignity," the "efficacy" of embryonic stem cells, the "certainty" of man-made global warming, and the "positive" multiplier effect in the leftist vernacular. Hopeful that repetition supplants truth, choirs of liberal faithful are singing:

Most importantly, broadening access to birth control will help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and abortions – Jeanne Shaheen, Barbara Boxer and Patty Murray

Covering contraception saves money for insurance companies by keeping women healthy and preventing spending on other health services –White House Fact Sheet on Contraception Coverage

Now consider, instead, reality.

The Science. The results are in: contraception availability does not reduce unintended pregnancies.

Many adolescent males will wholeheartedly affirm a connection between the availability of contraception and sexual activity, and scientific data supports the link. Studies have that contraception increases sexual activity -- i.e., that more contraception means more sex.

One study, based on Centers for Disease Control data, established clear links between birth control and increases in sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). STD increases are a very reliable indicator of increased sexual activity and show that contraception is wrongly perceived as low-cost insurance -- a perception that motivates increased sexual activity….

…Failures are highest among cohabitating and other unmarried women, among low income, African-American and Hispanic women, among adolescents and women in their 20s. For example, adolescent women who are not married but cohabitating experience a failure rate of about 47% in the first year of contraceptive use….

Planned Parenthood's own affiliate, the Guttmacher Institute, showed simultaneous increases in both abortion rates and contraceptive in the U.S., Cuba, Denmark, the Netherlands, Singapore, and South Korea. Guttmacher cites other countries as evidence of the opposite relationship, but it is noteworthy that many of those countries already had high abortion rates, often as part of existing coercive government policies. 

Testimony. Abortion industry regulars admit the truth. Guttmacher regularly reports that 55%-60% of women having abortions are on contraception….

….Conclusion. Real-world studies show that contraception has not reduced, but has instead increased unintended births. Therefore, President Obama's recent HHS edict has a very questionable basis in fact. It has also alienated a large swath of the electorate and is in all likelihood unconstitutional.

It seems that in this case, science has taken a backseat to ideology, and as a result, Catholics and other faiths are being systematically mistreated as a result of their religious beliefs. That makes this a case of bad science and religious bigotry.

This is an interesting look at contraception and seems to blow a hole in the main arguments of the left.  It also appears to me that rather than a group of men (catholic priests) trying to control women’s sexuality, we have another group of men (young sexually active) trying to control it the other way. 

2.  False White House Claims

False White House Claim #1: “28 states — more than half — 28 states in the country have laws with contraception coverage mandates.”

Truth: This is not a true comparison because the state mandates are for the most part insurer mandates, not employer mandates. Moreover, the federal contraceptive mandate is unquestionably broader in scope and narrower in its exemption than all of the 28 states’ comparable laws. Religious organizations in states with a mandate—even those where there is no express exemption—may opt out by simply self-insuring, dropping prescription drug coverage, or offering ERISA plans. The federal mandate permits none of these alternatives, and therefore is much less protective of religious liberty than any of the states’ policies.

False White House Claim #2: “Churches and other houses of worship will be exempt from the requirement to offer insurance that covers contraception.”

Truth: This is at most true only of churches that (1) primarily employ people of their own faith; (2) primarily serve people of their own faith; (3) qualify under Section 6033 of the Internal Revenue Code as a “church”; and (4) have as their “purpose” the inculcation of religious belief. Even then, these churches only “may” be exempted. Thus churches that view their “purpose” as doing unto others as they would have done unto them won’t qualify. And of course this claim avoids the elephant in the room: religious organizations that aren’t houses of worship — like thousands of hospitals, colleges, universities, religious schools, soup kitchens, charities, and others — get absolutely no protection under the White House’s rule.

False White House Claim #3: “States like North Carolina, New York, and California have identical religious employer exemptions.”

Truth: North Carolina’s religious exemption applies to any religious non-profit, not just houses of worship, does not require churches to serve only co-religionists, and does not require that “the” purpose of the non-profit be inculcation of religious values. California’s and New York’s exemptions are similar to the federal mandate, but even they do not include the “may” provision that the federal mandate does.

False White House Claim #4: “Some States like Colorado, Georgia and Wisconsin have no exemption at all.”

Truth: Even in states without a written religious exemption to a contraceptive mandate, there are broad de facto exemptions for those who self-insure or use ERISA plans. The HHS mandate contains neither of those exemptions.

False White House Claim #5: “Drugs that cause abortion are not covered by this policy.”

Truth: Drugs that prevent implantation of a fertilized egg, such as Plan B (the “morning-after pill”) and ella (the “week-after pill”) are covered by the policy. The White House claims that “abortion” can happen only after implantation, but the White House’s beliefs about when abortion can occur are irrelevant–most Christian denominations in the country, including the Roman Catholic Church, believe that taking drugs to prevent implantation is an immoral abortion. And it is that immoral activity that they have an objection to. Semantic games by the White House will not remove the problem.

You see a lot of claims being bandied about.  This seems to define them pretty well so you can understand what is actually happening.  It appears two of the most liberal states in the country are similar to the Federal plan. 

3.  It Obamacare’s mandate a Tax?

Testifying before Congress this morning, President Obama's acting budget director Jeffrey Zients directly undercut one of the administration's key legal defenses of its national health care law as it nears a hearing before the Supreme Court.

In a hearing of the House Budget Committee Rep. Scott Garrett, R-N.J., pressed Zients on whether the penalty that the health care law imposes on individuals who do not purchase health insurance constitutes a tax. Eventually, Zients said it did not.

But this directly contradicts one of the arguments the Obama administration is making before the Supreme Court in defense of the health care law, which is that the mandate is Constitutional because it's a tax and government has taxing power.

This has always been a tricky argument for the Obama administration, because admitting that the mandate is a tax means that Obama violated his pledge not to raise taxes on those earning less than $250,000. In September 2009, Obama told ABC's George Stephanapoulos that the mandate was not a tax. But by the following June, his administration was arguing in court that it was.

Now the administration is making both arguments simultaneously. Before Congress, Zients is arguing that it is not a tax. But before the Supreme Court next month, the administration will argue that it is, in fact, a tax…

Talking out of both sides of their mouths appears to be feat the left if very practiced at doing. 

4.  What is the purpose of Insurance?

Insurance is not supposed to be for normal expenses in the ordinary course of events, such as multivitamins, house painting or oil changes. Insurance is for unexpected catastrophes: fires, accidents, cancer.

The basic idea is to spread the risk of unforeseen disasters. Filling up your gas tank, for example, is not an unforeseen disaster (though it’s getting to be under Obama).

So why is birth control covered by insurance? Birth control pills aren’t that expensive — generics are about $20 a month — nor is the need for them a bolt out of the blue. Why not have health insurance cover manicures, back massages, carrot cake and nannies?

Liberals huffily ask why it’s so important to the Catholic Church not to pay for insurance plans that cover birth control, but the better question is: Why is it so important to liberals to force them to? (Wait until they have to buy coverage for vibrating butt-plugs!)

The answer is: They want the government giving official sanction to birth control and, later, abortion. That comes next. They want it for same reason gays want gay marriage — it’s purely symbolic.

Following Betty Friedan, gender feminists believe the pill is so central to what we are as a nation that it must be paid for by all, i.e. by insurance. The argument for fully subsidized abortions will be: We don’t vote on a basic human right!

Whether or not it’s a “right,” it’s not an area for “insurance.” Abortion is an elective procedure. No families are going bankrupt because they had to pay for an abortion — which costs about as much as a haircut for John Edwards or Bill Clinton. Can’t we limit the health insurance we are all required by federal law to purchase to financially ruinous, actual medical problems…

This is the argument the left is working hard to avoid.  Insurance is to cover unexpected disasters, not normal everyday activities. 

5.  New Medicare Reform Plan—Best Yet?

Senators Richard Burr (R., N.C.) and Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) have put out a new Medicare reform plan that just might be the best one yet. I discuss it in detail over at my Forbes blog. It combines the “premium support” and “competitive bidding” aspects of Paul Ryan’s plans, as best exemplified by the Wyden-Ryan proposal, and also incorporates a bunch of reforms from last summer’s Lieberman-Coburn proposal, such as raising the retirement age, means-testing Medicare, and cost-sharing reform. I conclude:

It’s an election year, of course, and President Obama has already stated his intention to campaign against market-based Medicare reform. As my co-blogger Robert Book noted this week, the President’s budget cuts Medicare by $300 billion over the next ten years. But Obama’s cuts are blunt and clumsy: they take the politically easy way out by cutting payments to doctors and hospitals, which will force more and more doctors to drop out of the Medicare program, making it harder and harder for retirees to get the care they need….

The left likes to say the poor are using emergency rooms instead of the doctor’s office which is expensive. However, Obama’s plan seems to be intent on simply changing who will be going to the emergency room as the elderly replace the poor. 

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