Monday, February 4, 2013

The contraceptive kerfuffle: a common-sense approach

If I were Queen of America, here's what I'd do about contraceptives.

First, I'd apologize for the current kerfuffle over whether faith-based institutions (or any business whose owners disapprove of contraception) have to provide contraceptive coverage in their insurance policies, and I'd rescind the HHS directive and all its amendments. Never mind whether it's a good idea to require contraceptive coverage; it has become politically unfeasible to do so, and we might as well drop it.

Second, I'd disentangle contraception from insurance altogether. Instead, I'd make an assortment of contraceptive medications available free or at a low cost as a direct gift from Uncle Sam to anyone with a valid prescription for them. Let's name the program Common Sense, shall we?

Third, I'd require pharmaceutical companies to provide Common Sense with low-cost equivalents of every category of contraceptive drug they manufacture. At the same time, I'd prevent price gouging by putting a price ceiling on all contraceptives paid for by the Common Sense program.

Fourth, I'd encourage continued research and development by allowing pharmaceutical companies to develop all the fancy, high-priced contraceptives they wish, and by allowing insurance companies to cover these designer drugs (because such meds would not be distributed through Common Sense). I'd even throw in some government funds for research, since improvements in contraception should lead to better health and, eventually, lower prices for all.

As Queen of America I'd fund Common Sense through tax money, which would no doubt offend some of my subjects. So be it: we all are offended by something, and right now I'm mightily offended by how much of my tax money goes to military intervention around the world.

If Common Sense helped Americans reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, we'd likely have fewer abortions, fewer high-school drop-outs, and fewer people on welfare. Common Sense might even save us money in the long run.

I'm not likely to become Queen of America, of course, and that's as well. Democracies - even contentious, inefficient ones - are generally safer than absolute monarchies. But gosh, wouldn't a little common sense be refreshing?

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