My dad never complained about the copays for cancer care. He had well over 100 radiation treatments plus medications, surgeries and chemo, so it added up. He was just grateful for the extra two and a half years of life. My friend who takes high blood pressure medicine also never grumbles about copayments. Who wants a stroke in midlife?
Same goes for friends with diabetes, cystic fibrosis, and multiple sclerosis — no complaints about expenses. The care is worth the cost. I’d say the same of the ten thousand dollars I’ve paid out-of-pocket for five orthopedic surgeries in the past 10 years. I’m grateful for the insurance’s partial coverage and am glad to pay my share. It’s my body, my responsibility for its health and upkeep, and my choice to try and correct its painful deficiencies.
With this perspective, I find myself perplexed by the entitlement mentality of some women over birth control coverage. They expect to receive free birth control from their health insurer. In fact, they demand it. So when the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently exempted employers with moral objections from providing insurance coverage for birth control, these women seethed at the supposed injustice. More than seethed, they’re suing. You’d think they were being forced to wear a bonnet and submit to sex slavery in some grim, dystopian regime rather than the prospect of paying a few extra dollars for their own health care.
The new regulation restores choice and responsibility in reproductive health care. Foremost it provides relief to employers who object to paying for contraception or types of birth control that act as abortifacients. Abortifacients do not merely prevent conception; they kill the tiny growing baby by preventing implantation. The regulation does not ban abortifacients or contraception — they are still widely available — it simply states that business owners who morally object do not have to insure their use.
The Supreme Court recognized the right of business owners to act in accord with their beliefs in two recent decisions regarding the Little Sisters of the Poor and Hobby Lobby. The new regulation takes the next step in protecting conscience by broadening the exemption beyond nuns and family-owned, “closely held corporations” to women and men who run other types of businesses.
The regulation does not prevent women from purchasing non-covered birth control methods on their own. Women can buy birth control pills, for example, for as little as $15 a month. Here in Colorado we can get a prescription through our local pharmacist rather than through a doctor’s office, another cost savings. Women take birth control pills for a variety of reasons — all perfectly valid — from avoiding pregnancy to treating hormonal deficiencies as in my case, irregular menstruation, acne, or endometriosis. Why should these medial conditions be privileged over others such that their treatment must by law be free? Men, after all, face out-of-pocket expenses for vasectomies, erectile dysfunction treatments, and their primary form of birth control — condoms. Some out-of-pocket expense should be expected for any health care choice. Like all things of value, they cost money.
The idea that women should not or cannot be expected to contribute financially to their sexual health is pernicious because men are expected to do so. That women must be given “free” things in order to thrive undermines the very principle of equality. “I am woman, hear me roar, but pay for my birth control” is not a statement of power but weakness. We are not entitled to free things by virtue of our sex. Especially in light of the financial burdens endured without complaint by men and women with chronic or terminal health problems, that sense of entitlement is embarrassing.