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Reproducing, Ladue-Style

And so the bill introduced by Republican Missouri State Senator John Lamping of Ladue, the bill that says employers cannot be forced to cover contraception, abortion, or sterilization against their moral or religious convictions, will move to law. Yesterday the Missouri legislature overrode Governor Nixon's veto by a two-thirds majority. Among the 109 house votes to override were six cast by Democrats. In the Post-Dispatch this morning, Lamping is quoted as saying:

"This is not an issue about access. All employees still have access to these services. This is an issue about who pays for them."

Fair enough. So let's talk about how people are going to pay for "these services" if and when their employers and/or insurance companies choose not to. And for the sake of simplicity, in true anti-abortion spirit, let's just talk about birth control pills, which prevent conception and pregnancy, and hence limit the number of abortions performed in Missouri.

Birth control pills must be prescribed by a physician. A person with health insurance pays between $10 and $30 in co-pay for the required gynecological exam. A person paying for those services "out of their personal wherewithal" (Lamping's words), will pay between $35 and $200.

Once a person has a prescription for birth control pills, she must go to a pharmacist and pay for them. If she has insurance that covers birth control, she will pay between $5 and $15 monthly for generics, or between $30 and $40 for the non-generics. If her insurance plan will not cover birth control pills, she will pay between $20 and $50 a month.

So: covered by a health plan that covers birth control pills, a person has to have at least $15 to see a doctor and obtain a month's worth of pills.

Now let's look at the numbers for the person whose insurance plan or employer (one or the other) will not pay for these services. At the very least, in today's market, she must find in her personal wherewithal $55 ($35 for the clinical visit and $20 for the first month of pills. At the most, this number goes up to $250  ($200 for the clinical exam) plus $50 (a month's worth of pills).

OK, so now we are comparing $15 and $55--the first month's difference between having health insurance that covers birth control pills and not having health insurance that covers birth control pills.

Minimum wage in this country is $7.25 an hour. A person earning minimum wage who would like to experience intimate relations (as my mother might say) with a loved one and not get pregnant is spending two hours working to earn the money she needs to visit a doctor and obtain a month of birth control pills, assuming her health plan covers birth control pills.

If her employer or her insurance plan chooses not to cover birth control pills, she will be working 7.6 hours in order to have the money to access that same set of services and products. About a day's work. Go ahead and multiply this out over a year:

Birth control pills, if covered (exam plus a year's supply): $70

This is 9.6 hours of mimimun-wage work--about a day.

Birth control pills, out of personal wherewithal (exam plus a year's supply): $270

This is 37.24 hours of minimum-wage work--about a week.

And remember, I am calculating at the cheap end of the ranges. At the top end, we're looking at $800 for an annual out-of-pocket, personal wherewithal cost.

Nobody, but nobody, is a fan of abortions. Pro-choice, pro-life. Nobody. Even in Missouri, we can agree on this. So why in the world would a financially well-off securities broker lead our state representatives to engineer a health care system that makes it far more likely that the women of the working poor will be conceiving unwanted pregnancies?

Mothers and daughters with sufficient personal wherewithal will almost always reproduce when and as we choose. Shouldn't the right to exercise individual moral and religious freedom extend to everyone? 




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