More Free Stuff

Sunday, July 24, 2011
“Unintended pregnancies carry health consequences for the mother - psychological, emotional and physical – and also consequences for the newborn”, said Dr. Linda Rosenstock, panel chairwoman and dean of public health at the University of California, Los Angeles. “The overwhelming evidence was strongly supportive of the health benefit” of contraception.


The above paragraph was part of an Associated Press story that appeared Tuesday at Cleveland.com. The headline was Panel urges no co-pay insurance coverage for women’s birth control.

Last year’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) included a provision for preventive care. Most health insurance plans are now required to cover a list of preventive care exams and tests without any co-payments. FREE! The costs for these services are simply shifted to the insurance company who eventually shifts them back to you or your employer in the form of higher premiums. Knowing that recommendations over and above mammograms and Pap tests would be controversial, the issue was shipped over to the 16 person panel at the Institute of Medicine.

The panel recommended that the following female-specific items be included under the free preventive care benefit:
* All forms of contraception – Birth Control Pills, IUD, and emergency contraception (the morning-after pill)
* At least one “well woman” preventive care visit annually
* Annual HIV counseling and screening for sexually active women
* Annual counseling on sexually transmitted infections for sexually active women
* Screening for and counseling about domestic violence
* Screening every 3 years starting at age 30 for the virus that causes cervical cancer
* Screening for diabetes during pregnancy
* Support for breast feeding mothers, including the cost of renting pumps

The recommendations didn’t have a 16-0 endorsement. Anthony LoSasso, a senior research professor at the University of Illinois School of Public Health, objected. He noted the absence of a cost-benefit analysis. But since money wasn’t relevant, the Rosenstock led panel pushed through their wish list.

There is a very good chance that Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, will incorporate these recommendations into public policy in the next few weeks. There is an even better chance that Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, will be attacking the insurance companies next year when your rates go up.

I am not suggesting that giving women information and access is bad. Far from it. The lack of concern over cost bothers me. And, this decision to explore personal habits opens us, as a society, to countless issues.

Dispensing free contraceptives as part of preventive care means, in essence, that any woman physically capable of getting pregnant, but not utilizing some form of contraception, is not following accepted medical care. Should your eleven year old daughter be on the pill or have the patch? IUD at fifteen? I believe that this is a family discussion.

Is sex a choice? Is sex too desirable to avoid?

What about gun ownership? I’ve never owned a gun. I have never fired a real gun. But I know people who feel even more strongly about their guns than I do about the wooden pen I’m using to write this post. We know that children find guns in their homes and accidentally kill themselves, siblings, or playmates. What is to keep Secretary Sebelius from incorporating a gun ownership prevention/education/safety program into every child’s preventive care visit?

It doesn’t stop there. I was a healthy kid, but I had numerous basketball injuries. Should my teenage preventive care exams have come with elbow and knee pads, or should the doctor have just given up and prescribed a 30 minute video on the horrors of knee injuries?

Football is a choice. So is riding a bike. We now require children to wear bicycle helmets. Shouldn’t the doctor just periodically dispense them as the child outgrows them? This is preventive care. The science supports the need.

And Money Is No Object.

We live in a fantasy world where there is an abundance of free stuff. The U.S. is currently fighting two or three (depending on who you talk to) unfunded wars. The party, Democrat or Republican, out of power is always more obsessed with budgets and deficits than whichever is in charge. And wherever there is a microphone you will find a politician promising something for nothing.

We’re adults. We know better. But we still want more free stuff.

DAVE

www.bcandb.com