What is the HHS Mandate?
By Hadley Heath
Over the weekend, National Review's Kathryn Lopez interviewed me about the HHS mandate that employers provide insurance coverage for sterilization and contraception. Here is a highlight from the interview:
LOPEZ: What about the women? Isn’t a protest against the HHS Mandate a protest against freedom? Against women? Against those who have ovarian cysts?
HEATH: Actually, contrary to the false crisis depicted by Sandra Fluke and other Feminists, most women in the United States currently enjoy very easy access to the contraception they use. With a prescription from their doctors, American women have a spectrum of choices, ranging from very cheap generics ($9/month at Wal-Mart) to more expensive brand-name drugs like NuvaRing or Seasonique.
Less talked about are the economic arguments against the HHS mandate. Women of all religious and nonreligious stripes should oppose the mandate because the current system 1) encourages women to differentiate among drugs based on price, signaling market demand among drugs to producers and allowing for competition among drugs to keep prices low and 2) encourages innovation in contraceptive drugs, meaning even a birth control pill for men could be developed. But making birth control “no-cost” for the entire female population will distort important market incentives driving competition and innovation.
And currently, without a mandate, many employers who oppose birth control for religious reasons are happy to select an insurance plan that covers the drugs for women who require them for non-contraceptive use — for example for women with poly cystic ovary syndrome, endometriosis, or PMDD — so that isn’t really at issue.
LOPEZ: IWF seems to clearly communicate protesting the HHS mandate is not about religion or women? How can you say that?
HEATH: IWF is a secular organization, so we wouldn’t make arguments based on religion. And while we are women, we want what’s best for both women and men in public policy in the United States.
The HHS mandate is one particular egregious example, but we see many flaws in the Affordable Care Act that undermine personal responsibility. This may not sound like a good argument to everyone, but we recognize that taking responsibility for ourselves means more individual freedom, and that’s what we want for people in the United States, in health care and in every other policy issue. More freedom, more choices.
This mandate also clearly injects government into a debate about deeply personal moral convictions. We believe that debate is best had in civil society where good people with good intentions are free to come to different conclusions. In the private market, people of various religions and worldviews work together everyday to exchange goods and services and create wealth. We see this as a beautiful thing. You don’t have to agree with owner of the store on everything in order to get your buy something; you just have to agree on the price. Government shouldn’t ask people to come to a common belief system in order to work together in the marketplace. Diversity of opinion has always been celebrated in the United States — until now it seems.
So far, one case has resulted in a temporary injunction against the mandate. Catholic Colorado business owners of Hercules, a heating-and-air company, successfully secured this injunction as litigation continues.