Rep. Mike Quigley (IL) is one of the few Democrats openly pushing the issue as a both a moral and political victory (as he did in this Tuesday op-ed). He told TPM that while he understands that inserting religion into this argument can lead to a broad range of responses, he said that pro-choice Democrats need to get on board with the White House plan and stay there.
“If you’re pro-choice, the most important thing you need to is be pro-education and [pro-]contraception,” Quigley said. “Even if you’re just thinking so practically and cold-heartedly with, ‘oh, it’s an election year’, you know what? The vast majority of Catholic women want access to birth control, are on birth control and they want free birth control in their plan.”
It's free! HHS Secetary Sebelius peddled the same fantasy in the intro to her recent USA Today piece:
One of the key benefits of the 2010 health care law is that many preventive services are now free for most Americans with insurance.
It's free because someone else pays for it? Not really. The consensus among economists is that, regardless of who writes the check, payroll taxes and employee benefits are mostly borne by the employee in the form of lower wages. Of course, with health insurance there is also a favorable tax treatment so the government is chipping in, but still - its not "free" to employees just because it is not in their paycheck.
Can we find a prominent progressive economist to explain this to the unicorn-riders on the left? Yes We Can:
Prof. KRUGMAN: I mean, I do agree that someone will pay, and it won't be, in the end, for the most part, the businesses that are obliged to extend coverage to their employees. It will show up possibly in lower wages, possibly in higher prices for the products that these firms produce.
The best things in life may be free, but contraception coverage isn't one of them.
RIDING IN ON HIS UNICORN: Obama has just announced his "accomodation", which relies on magical thinking and a suspension of any belief in economics.
The gist, as I followed it - if a religious group has an objection to providing contraception coverage than:
(a) the employer doesn't have to pay for it;
(b) the insurance company must contact employees and volunteer to provide the coverage free of charge and without copays.
He looked serious; maybe he really believes that shifting costs eliminates costs.
In my world, at least, an insurance company would want a bit pf demographic information about a company's workforce before quoting a health care premium to the employer. If the insurance company can reasonably predict that a certain number of employees will take up the "free" contraceptive coverage, the quoted premium will be adjusted accordingly.
Now, it may be that it Obama's world the insurance compay will be utterly shocked (shocked!) to learn that some women will want the "free" contraceptive coverage, and this unexpected expense will simply come out of their exorbitant profits. Maybe Obama is that dumb.
But more charitably, it may be that this approach is being tossed out as a nod and wink fig-leaf to religious employers. Everyone knows who is paying for the "free" coverage, but everyone will pretend that it is being paid for by the beneficient insurance company.
Eliminating the administrative role of the employer might be enough. And one might argue that since the insurance expense is ultimately borne by the employees as a group, there is no religious freedom problem for the employer. On the other hand, the employer is writing the checks to the insurer, and those checks include an expected price for the "free" contraception coverage.
CAN'T FOOL SARAH KLIFF OF THE WAPO:
The catch in Obama’s contraceptives compromise
By one report’s measure, it costs about $21.40 to add birth control, IUDs and other contraceptives to an insurance plan. Those costs may be offset by a reduction in pregnancies. But unless drug manufacturers decide to start handing out free contraceptives, the money to buy them will have to come from somewhere.
Where will it come from, since neither employers nor employees will be paying for these contraceptives? That leaves the insurers, whose revenues come from the premiums that subscribers pay them. It’s difficult to see how insurance companies would avoid using premiums to cover the costs of contraceptives. They could, perhaps, use premiums from non-religious employers. Those businesses wouldn’t likely object on faith-based grounds, but they probably wouldn’t be keen on footing the bill for people who aren’t on their payrolls.
I'm going long umbrellas, because IUDs and condoms are going to start falling from the sky. Freely.