Covering birth control v. ED pills illuminates what health insurance is supposed to do

After I wondered the other day why those against health insurance covering birth control for women make no such objection to coverage of erectile dysfunction pills, several people tweeted me to uncover what they think is a fatal flaw in my argument: ED pills treat a medical condition, whereas birth control does not.

Medical condition versus no medical condition: At the heart of this distinction by those opposed to birth control for women is the idea that health insurance should not cover preventive medicine, such as annual physicals, mammograms, colonoscopies, Pap smears, mole removals, vaccines and dental check-ups. None of these tests or procedures cure anything, only prevent conditions or prevent them from becoming fatal. Imagine how much more suffering there would be in the world if polio and small pox were still running rampant through the world, or if the many early stage and pre-cancerous conditions were not caught.

To say that medical care and health insurance have as their sole goal to cure ailments is just wrong. Medicine and health insurance also prevent ailments.

The birth of a child is a wonderful thing, but only if the child is wanted. Pregnancy is always fraught with risks for both mother and child. Often women have ailments or disabilities that increase those risks to the point that pregnancy would be life-threatening. Those risks multiply for the child in unwanted pregnancies and can continue throughout childhood and beyond. Unwanted pregnancies can also lead to abortions, which, while not usually dangerous if performed under proper medical supervision, are objectionable to many people. To deny that birth control is part of preventive care requires ignoring a slew of data on women’s health issues.

Health insurers and medical professionals are always trying to figure out what and how many preventive tests, procedures and examinations are needed to keep people healthy while minimizing the unnecessary. After what must have been many studies repeatedly analyzed, most agree that covering birth control is worth the cost because it lowers total medical costs and prevents the pain and suffering of many unwanted pregnancies and abortions.

Now the other side will say that there’s another way to prevent pregnancies and unwanted abortion, the “little white aspirin pill between the knees” method, AKA abstinence. They ask, why make society pay for the personal decision to engage in sex? And of course, the same question can be asked about ED pills.

And so those opposed to coverage of birth control pills are left with a dilemma:

  • Loudly oppose coverage of ED pills (since to engage in sex is a matter of personal choice) or admit they have a double standard


  • Come out against coverage of all preventive medicine.

Somehow I don’t think either will happen.

Republicans have latched onto the “birth control coverage” issue because they think they can use it to make other messages that will resonate with the right-wing. The overt messages have to do with government interference, especially as it involves health care, and the role of religion in the government and society. The subtext, though, entails some old-fashioned and wrong-headed ideas about the role of women in society.

4 thoughts on “Covering birth control v. ED pills illuminates what health insurance is supposed to do

  1. Correction: Rather than an ‘illness’, feminists label pregnancy as a ‘disease’. Funny, I was pregnant, and rather than a ‘disease’, I found it to be my most significant accomplishment as a woman. The product was a beautiful baby girl who is now a self-sufficient, competent professional who would never dream of asking someone else to subsidize her contraceptives.

  2. Feminists claim that pregnancy is an ‘illness’, and if one were to follow that rationale, the logical answer for women who view pregnancy as an ‘illness’ is to take every precaution necessary to avoid been afflicted by this ‘illness’. Since the ‘host’ or ‘carrier’ of the illness has been identified as any fertile male, the ‘cure’ is simple: to avoid sexual contact with any fertile male, to require the intended male partner to find the means to avoid transmitting the ‘illness’ (use condoms, have a vasectomy, or both), and last, ‘inoculation’ by means of sterilization (tubal ligation or hysterectomy).

  3. Hormonal contraceptives have been available since the 1960’s, and many other methods of birth control have been developed since that first ‘magic pill’ gave women control over our reproductive system. In order to make the ‘magic pill’ available to women who could not afford them, Planned Parenthood centers were set up throughout the country, at a cost of billions of taxpayer’s dollars. They were also made available at Health Clinics, and more recently, stores such as Target & Walmart have introduced generic versions of contraceptives for $9/mo. There are many other methods of birth control available for both women and men. Curiously, there are still far too many women, even over educated women, who can’t find their way to either a Planned Parenthood center or a Health Clinic, or to the local Target, Walmart, or chain pharmacy, and now demand that the rest of us pay for their recreational sexual activities.

    Should every health insurance policy for women cover hormonal contraceptives specifically needed to treat a medical condition? Absolutely. However, the way in which this issue was presented by Sandra Fluke is an embarrassment to any self-respecting woman. Georgetown University’s health plan already covers hormonal contraceptives needed to treat a medical condition, which means that Sandra Fluke’s claim that her ‘fictitious’ friend was denied them was manufactured and its sole purpose was to justify her demand for coverage for hormonal contraceptives for recreational purposes. Sadly, too many have taken the bait and are now heard parroting her demand instead of concentrating on the need for coverage for medical purposes.
    Should ED medications be covered by health insurance? Absolutely. Why? Because ED is a medical condition, not optional, and there are not inexpensive, effective gadgets available to treat it.

    To those who say that not all drugs are the same and reject generic contraceptives, manufacturers of hormonal contraceptives have made it very clear that they are not 100% effective and they recommend the use of a second method along with them. I have used generic medications since their introduction, and have found them to be effective.

    Common sense dictates that women whose lives would be at risk by an unwanted pregnancy would be safer with sterilization, not contraceptives. And why would anyone who cannot afford to have a child and cannot even afford to pay $9/mo for contraceptives want to take the risk of an unwanted pregnancy? Wouldn’t it make more sense to chose sterilization? After all, reproduction is not an option in their case, either, so why continue taking the risk, and why should the rest of us have to bear the burden of either one of their choices?

    Last,it is very curious that in a debate about reproduction, a ’cause celeb’ of radical activist feminist, men are been given a free pass, and their responsibility in preventing an unwanted pregnancy has been completely ignored. I guess that the feminist cry for ‘equality’ did not include ‘equal responsibility’. The cry of the new feminist: ‘Reproductive freedom, and all of you pay for it’.

    Insurance of any kind is intended to cover unexpected, unaffordable expenses, not routine, low cost items. The cost of hormonal contraceptives has now been reduced to less than the cost of a trip to the movies, an insignificant amount to a single individual, but an undue burden to insurance carriers due to the millions of women who would have to be covered, and the length of the coverage, which is at least 20 years. We should all be concerned because this would translate into higher premiums for every insured individual, even those who do not need this product. Why would anyone be interested in forcing yet another increase in insurance premiums? Just a point to ponder.

  4. Many times birth control is prescribed for treatment of hormonal imbalances, depression, dysphoric disorder and regulating other women’s health issues. I know many women who are on birth control for the medical benefit, not for preventing pregnancy. Of course, we said yes to the apple so clearly need to be punished.

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