Free birth control, how it affected the election and why it makes socio-economic sense

Demanding that insurance cover for contraceptives makes sense to a majority of Americans, with the exception of the religious right who will lose talking points if fewer women experience unwanted pregnancies, and libertarians, who think paying for it will increase the cost of healthcare.

But first, let’s revisit the effect that the contraceptive coverage rule had on the election and Obama’s victory. We know from exit polls that Obama carried the women vote by a margin of 55% to 44%, but for unmarried women the margin was 67% to 31% for Obama. However, the margins were even larger in the 2008 election.

Based on polls that show wide support for the contraceptive law among Democrats (80%) and among Catholic women (62%), the effect of the law seem to be that it attracted back women voters who may have otherwise been unenthusiastic about Obama’s reelection given the struggling economy that affected them as it did all of us, but caused more hardship for single mothers.

An NBC article finds that unmarried women have solidified into a powerful voting force and their vote probably helped Obama win reelection.

One of the reasons for that is the birth control issue,” says American Association of University Women Policy Director Lisa Maatz. “Abortion — reasonable people can disagree on that and do. But the whole issue of access to birth control…is something that most women thought was a settled issue.”

Now to the reasons why free birth control makes social and economic sense.

A recent study finds that

offering women free birth control can reduce unplanned pregnancies — and send the abortion rate spiraling downward.

The social consequences of offering contraceptives for free are therefore clear. Now to the economic consequences.

Even though a woman who has income may be able to afford it, she may not do so if she is not dating or for other reasons that are of psychological nature. Offering the pill for free is an incentive to take it. Moreover, the above cited study finds that

First, a large majority of the women in the study were encouraged — and chose — to use intrauterine devices, or IUDs, and hormonal implants over more commonly used birth control pills.

Because birth control pills require strict adherence, and people forget to take them, that method fails about 8 percent of the time. IUDs and implants are over 99 percent effective.

Offering to pay for the more fail-proof but more expensive contraceptives ensures that women avoid unwanted pregnancies.

But here is the main economical argument to free birth control: A 2011 report finds that unintended pregnancies cost taxpayers $11 Billion a year!

Nearly two-thirds of unintended pregnancies — roughly a million births — are publicly funded by Medicaid and other government programs, the report shows.

At the same time, the demand for abortions among low-income women has been on the rise since the recession. The abortion rate increased 18 percent among poor women between 2000 and 2008, according to another recent Guttmacher report, as a result of their inability to afford or access contraceptive services and their perceived inability to support a child.

The Guttmacher Institute estimates that every dollar invested in family planning saves state governments $3.74 in Medicaid costs and pregnancy related care.

What that means is that both insurance companies as well as the government will save billions in pregnancy related costs by offering free birth control.

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Free birth control, how it affected the election and why it makes socio-economic sense, 1.0 out of 1 based on 2 ratings

13 comments to Free birth control, how it affected the election and why it makes socio-economic sense

  • BC

    Ita:   You conveniently left out the part where I explained why – shame on you.   I was/am unemployed.  I was diagnosed with a rare malignant form of bone cancer in and outside of my spine, which was putting a ton of pressure on my sciatic nerve   I had no insurance and had to fight for it.  Furthermore, the cancer has a survival rate of 5-7 years.  Put simply I was given a death sentence.  The cancer is called chordoma.   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chordoma   The pressure on my sciatic nerve was awful.  One night I was watching TV and both my legs (thighs and calves) fully locked.  I could not get off the floor for an hour.  During this 6 month period I could not sleep on my back or stomach and I never slept more than 2 hours in a row.   Because I had no insurance doctors would generally not see me.  End result was I had 3 weeks of pain killers for 6 months of pain and again the pain was extremely intense.  So I abused Tylenol and Advil.  Some days I took as much as 12k MG of tylenol and the safe dose if 4k.   So when you complain about not having free birth control when you earn very good money I think you are being extremely selfish.   And here's the point – every time you mandate coverage of a given thing it increases the cost of insurance.  So when we're trying to make sure everyone has proper access to HC it is not helpful to cover unnecessary items like birth control for those that can afford it.   Because it adds up.  Cover people that need surgery first.   And let's be honest if you are too cheap to buy birth control when you can well afford to do so the worst that happens is you get pregnant.  In my case – you die and this story is all over the country.  So spare me the sanctimony.   And my comments have zero to do with religion rather triage – you have to take care of urgent cases first. 

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    • itaest

      I know your case, BC. And I am sorry to hear you did not have access to good health care. We have discussed this before.

      But I answered to your statement that free birth control increases health care costs. I answered with facts:

      But here is the main economical argument to free birth control: A 2011 report finds that unintended pregnancies cost taxpayers $11 Billion a year!

      That extra money saved can be used to cover costs of cancer treatments.

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    • itaest

      One more thing. I wish Obamacare would already be fully implemented to help people like you and anyone who needs medical care and can't afford it today. This is when I say that you are being pessimistic, because you do not believe Obamacare and other programs will work. Yet, we have discussed it working in Switzerland. And if it is because you don't trust Obama, just look at what he has accomplished with a gridlocked congress. Of course, you will mention the debt again, but there are times when it's about investing to save the economy and there are times when it is wise to save and lower the debt. Or just look at his GOTV organization, how effcient and effective it was run. If his health care program is as good as the GOTV, you'll be fine. It just cannot come soon enough.

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      • BC

        Ita:  Several comments and I will break them into 2 parts.  My comment on birth control was why add an unnecessary cost to HC when people with money can afford to pay $30 per month on their own.  The idea is that ACA is far from working and won't kick in for over another year.
         
        It will cost a lot of money to make ACA a reality.  It is frivolous and again selfish to pay for birth control for those that can afford it when many in this country have very serious medical conditions going untreated.  Until such people are getting care discussing free birth control for people that can afford it is ridiculous.
         
        Our common friend is broke as you well know and cannot get medicaid or other yet has a problem with her spine that requires medical care.  But she cannot get this care, yet you want your birth control paid for.  Get the pressing problems fixed first.
         
        Now let's say in a few years that ACA is working well and everyone is getting the care they need.  I still don't understand why birth control, Viagra and other "non-essentials" should be freely given to people that can afford it on their own.  Why do you think this should be paid for?
         
        You cite the money that is saved by unwanted pregnancy.  Again – are you telling me that women that earn good money won't go on birth control if it's not free?

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        • itaest

          are you telling me that women that earn good money won't go on birth control if it's not free?

          It may be a psychological incentive to just take the pill even when not needed, yes, and keep women in the workforce longer, and paying taxes, until she's ready for a baby. And I am saying, what's the point in making that distinction? It either covers all women or none. Having to check someone's tax returns to see if a woman earns above $$$ and should pay out of her own pocket will only increase the paperwork/bureaucratic costs, why would you want that?

          Don't worry about it. It's a good law and it will save money and prevent abortions.

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          • BC

            Well the pill or other contraceptive is certainly needed if one is sexually active and is not trying to have a baby.  If a woman does not want a baby then it is the personal responsibility of the woman and her partner to use some form a birth control.
             
            If one is on Medicaid then it's covered as it should be or one can go to planned parenthood otherwise you pay for it yourself.  One doesn't need to check tax returns.
             
            And what's the cost of free birth control?  $10 billion per annum?  It's not free – it costs money.

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      • BC

        On ACA working or not.  I have been abdundantly clear that I want everyone to have proper HC.  The question is how do you get there from where we are today?
         
        I do not think everyone can have HC unless costs are dropped like in your example of Germany and this requires going after insurance, suing, pharma, fraud and education costs.
         
        So I'm not pessimistic and it's not a question of trusting or not trusting Obama.  It's Congress.  What's destroying our country is lobbying.
         
        On one hand Congress doesn't want to go after the big players now because the economy is tight and it would cost jobs.  Secondly, lobbyists keep congress people in office so they are loathe to go after them.  Also a congress person's job is to represent their state or district so if NJ senators screw big pharma then they aren't doing their job.
         
        So I do not trust Congress or believe that they will take the right action to make HC for all a reality. 

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  • BC

    No argument on GOTV – huge success, but didn't require bargaining with Congress so a very different thing.
     
     

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  • BC

    So here are my observations on ACA.  As it stand now the initial parts of it are being paid for by higher premiums on companies and people.
     
    If you're self employed your premiums are way higher.  If you have insurance from your company both the company and the employee have to pay more for HC.
     
    So for people they now have less money to spend on other things – TVs, dinners, etc.  This hurts a rebound in other sectors = not good for job growth.  And again I would point you to the U-6 number of high unemployment, which remains stubbornly high at 14.6%.
     
    Next it makes it more expensive for corporations to cover existing employees, but more importantly makes it difficult for companies to hire new employees.  This discourages job growth.
     
    For ACA to work, outside of cutting costs to a German level, you also want as many people working as possible or the govt./taxpayer will have to pay for them.  This is why I held and still hold the opinion that launching health care for all in the worst economy since the 30s was not the right time to launch ACA.
     
    Rather Obama should have gotten the economy stabilized first then done ACA.
     
    This being said I am giving him the benefit of the doubt.  Outside of pushing ACA forward I have no idea what he intends to do to grow jobs or address other issues.  So I hope he succeeds because we are all screwed if he does not.

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    • itaest

      Obamacare is Obama's signature law and he will make sure it becomes one of his major accomplishments, beyond killing Osama or rescuing the auto industry. The man is very proud and very effective in what he does, if health care coverage were easy to solve someone else would have done it years ago. But because a problem is hard does not mean it has no solution. It will take time. Fortunately, we do not need congress on this anymore, it passed that hurdle and the supreme court too. It's now solidly on Obama's court, and since it carries his name and he says he likes the name, he will make sure it works.

      What I would like to see someone write is an optimistic article that describes the current problems in health care and how they are being addressed one by one. I think Obama's weakness is that he is not good at explaning what he is doing, which is why he said he will assign Bill Clinton the title of secretary of explaining things. He needs someone to report to the people what is being done. They do have this web site with News on Obamacare but they are nbot advertising it.

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      • BC

        I never said it was easy nor did I say that it was not doable, but ACA needs a lot of work/modification if it is to realize it's intent.  If Obama can get this done without breaking the bank then he will truly have achieved something great.  And I do believe that it is doable, but it won't be easy.
         
        Actually Obama does need Congress because as you are well aware the legislative branch writes laws.  It will not happen any other way.  It's not in his court at all rather entirely up to Congress.
         
        Also given that SCOTUS ruled that Medicaid expansion cannot be forced on states it is also up to state legislatures to make it work.
         
        Here are the challenges that I see.
         
        Firstly, as you have so accurately noted – Germany has a 50% cost per capita vs. the US.  So we have to get the costs down.  And this won't be easy given how many people earn their living off of HC.  Wherever you cut people will fight.
         
        Next you have an intermediate problem of HC premium spikes – something we are already seeing.  This is due to covering kids up to 26 and no denial of pre-existing conditions – both great things, but the economic challenge in our high joblessness economy is it makes it more expensive to hire or keep an employee and makes it harder for the self employed to buy insurance or spend as much money in other verticals the spend from which employs other people.
         
        And when you're trying to grow jobs it makes it more difficult and we need to grow jobs to cut govt. costs and increase tax revenue.
         
        Next you have state govts. that are broke.  So as ACA goes mainstream in 2014 states have to pick up the additional costs of ACA for those that currently qualify for Medicaid, but are not using it.  Somehow states have to find this cash – not easy.
         
        And what's breaking state budgets is lower tax revenues and insane union benefits.  So how does the state increase revenues?  Unions won't budge on benefits so the solution here is very tough.  And there are simply not that many rich people so you have to soak the middle class – not easy politically when the middle class does not have pensions or benefits anywhere close to those of unions.
         
        Another problem with union benefits and pensions is politicians have given them a better deal every few years to buy votes and the problem is they do not set aside funds in the year these benefits are earned rather they give the benefit and spend the money elsewhere.
         
        NY State for example has a largely unfunded liability of $200 billion just for retired state employees' HC benefits from roughly age 55 to 65.  And this says nothing of current workers or pension liabilities to the retired.
         
        So from where does the money come?  Do you advocate muni bond default and if so no one will loan a given state money for a very long time plus you are screwing the bond holders, which ironically are heavily pension funds and senior citizens.
         
        So there's nothing easy about making ACA a reality and if one ignores the economics then ACA is DOA.  God forbid the stock market sells off as not only are people screwed on their 401Ks, but pension funds will not be able to meet their liabilities to retired state employees.
         
        Again some form of ACA is doable, but it's a ton of work and you have to get into the weeds to make it work and above all you need as many working as possible.  I continue to hold that ACA would have been a lot easier in an up economy.

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        • itaest

          You list the challenges, but are there no solutions? Can you think of any? Do you think others may think of any? Your comments would be so powerful if you would suggest solutions.

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          • BC

            You make a good point.  I'm overly focused on the worst case scenario.  Your comment made a lot of sense and was fair/accurate.  An yes there are always solutions, but you also have to market them properly.
             
            Your comment got my head spinning.  I have a number of things I wish to write, but probably tomorrow as I'm beat.

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