Earlier today, @TheDemocrats – “the official Twitter account of the Democratic Party” – tweeted the following: “Before #Obamacare, women spent up to $600 a year on birth control. That’s equal to 9 tanks of gas.” Included with this tweet was a snazzy purple graphic with the same language, and “Women deserve preventive health care coverage,” underneath. I’ll confess, it touched a nerve. I responded with this: “And *poof* — it’s now magically free!!! Y’all are so amazing!!! #FreeStuffForEveryone”.
No, I’m not mad that all health insurance plans must now cover the cost of birth control — I’m no fan of much of anything being government mandated, but that ‘s a philosophical quibble for another day. Nor am I mad that some employers who have religious/conscientious objections to providing health care coverage which includes birth control are being forced to litigate the issue via the courts. I mean – these are things that irk me, but they aren’t the impetus for this post.
What I’m mad about is this: The Democrats, with that tweet, imply that Obamacare has somehow now rendered birth control “free.” This exposes and/or plays to a very basic misunderstanding of economics which serves as the underpinning for most of the liberal agenda, at least in the fiscal arena. Perhaps what makes me most mad about it is that I bought into it for so many years.
We’ve all heard the saying, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” I heard it — and even understood it — back when my ears were still liberal. I just didn’t give it much thought. But it perfectly sums up the economic reality that one simply cannot get something for nothing. Always, there is a trade off of some sort. Just as the cost for the food provided with a “free lunch,” is offset by a higher drink price, the cost of “free” birth control must be offset in some fashion. Any business, be it a restaurant or a pharmacy, must profit in order to live. Income must exceed expense. That does not — can not — happen when one’s product is simply doled out for free.
The cost of a “free” lunch is made up for in one of two ways: 1) It is included in the cost of other items sold; or 2) it is covered in the price of paying customers’ meals. Likewise, the cost of “free” birth control is either made up for by higher prices for other drugs or by higher insurance premiums. Or both.
Strangely enough, when birth control pills suddenly became “free” under my employer’s health insurance plan, our insurance premiums also increased. This is where the proponents of “free” birth control point out that it was the evil insurer’s choice to increase premiums. Why, yes, yes it was. While some might find it shocking that a business, understanding basic economics, opted to offset the provision of a “free” product, by charging more for another, I don’t. And neither should anyone else who understands that the lack of profit creates an existential crisis for any business.
If you choose to use birth control, you are choosing to use a product. That product costs money. It costs money to develop, it costs money to make, it costs money to ship, and it costs money to sell. Interestingly enough, these days, many types of birth control pills can be obtained at your local pharmacy for as little as $9 a pack. If that’s still too much for you to afford, your local Planned Parenthood will typically provide them based on a sliding scale. For you to just expect it to be handed to you for “free,” demonstrates a troubling level of ignorance and/or selfishness.
I’ll confess I feel right silly at the moment, explaining such a basic concept. Anyone who actually reads this already gets it. But the mentality which that tweet from The Democrats perpetuates is the same mentality that blithely ignores economic realities and forges ahead with policies which do damage to our economy on both a micro and macro level. And it ticks me off!