December 6, 2013
Recently, #HandsOffMyBirthControl trended on Twitter. It was a response to the Supreme Court’s decision to look into whether for-profit corporations must provide insurance covering birth control, even if they oppose birth control on religious grounds. Unfortunately, these short-sighted Tweets are missing the point. Religious business owners have their “hands” on birth control due to a fundamental problem with the American health insurance market. It’s a problem which predates most Millennials’ political consciousness, and a problem ObamaCare codified instead of fixed.
The top Tweets included true, if obvious, statements such as “No woman should have her access to birth control interfered with by her boss,” Tweeted by Planned Parenthood. Representative George Miller Tweeted, “RT if you believe women deserve to make their own health care choices.” And Secular Woman Tweeted, “Corporations shouldn’t get to decide whether you receive birth control or not under your coverage.”
But when ObamaCare mandated that all insurance plans cover birth control, it created a situation devoid of good options. Forcing religious business owners to choose such plans clearly violates their religious liberty. Forcing women who work at such businesses to pay out of pocket for birth control while they pay for plans which cover Viagra is grossly unfair.
Millennials get this fundamental unfairness, which may be why most of them do not believe that an employer’s personal religious beliefs should affect their access to birth control. One poll found that 62 percent of Millennials believe religiously affiliated colleges and hospitals should be required to provide their employees with health care plans that cover contraception or birth control at no cost.
But it’s important for Millennials to look at the bigger picture. The ObamaCare birth control mandate creates an us-versus-them situation exactly because it exacerbates a more fundamental flaw in the American health insurance market. Namely, that there isn’t one.
The first impediment to a true market in health insurance is the link between employment and insurance. This is a totally artificial, government-created link which has way outlived its utility. If people chose their health insurance themselves, they could decide whether to get a plan which covers birth control. Delinking the two would be as simple as a few changes to the tax code. But ObamaCare does not address this issue.
ObamaCare was supposed to help delink the two by offering unemployed people affordable health insurance plans. The problem there is actually the second way ObamaCare impedes a market for health insurance. By outlawing high-deductible, catastrophic care plans, it makes exactly the kinds of plans Millennials need most illegal. The last thing anyone needs when chronically under- and unemployed is to pay for insurance which covers breast implants. But under ObamaCare, there’s no avoiding it. You are either covered with an extremely expansive plan, or you’re paying the fine and going without insurance at all.
The third major impediment to a market in health insurance is that it’s currently illegal to shop across state lines for health insurance plans. This is, again, a law with no utility. It’s purpose is to allow states to more effectively dictate which services and products insurance plans within their state must cover. But now that that’s being dictated at the federal level through ObamaCare, it’s outlived it’s only use.
Neither health insurance nor birth control would be too expensive for the vast majority of Americans if we were legally allowed to enjoy an actual market for health insurance. It’s time to stop looking at the next Supreme Court case for justice for American women and start looking at crafting a health care system that works. Tax code changes, freedom of choice in plans and interstate competition are just the start. Instead of telling employers #HandsOffMyBirthControl, it’s time for Millennials to tell the government #HandsOffMyHealthInsurance.
This post originally appeared at Forbes.