The Argument About Contraceptive Coverage Misses the Point

The current distraction of the week is the battle over whether or not employers should be forced to provide health insurance plans that cover contraceptives. As you can predict there is a huge divide on this issue between religious fundamentalists and everybody else. Unfortunately those fighting over this topic are missing the whole point, employers shouldn’t even be involved in your healthcare:

Why is it considered normal for your boss to determine your healthcare options in the first place?

Relying on employers for healthcare means the company has more leverage over the worker. If you’re out of work then you might be out of luck when it comes to your health. And if the boss decides what kind of healthcare the employee can get — at issue in the current discussion of religiously-affiliated institutions and contraception — this can mean an extension of the boss’s control outside of work hours.

How did we get to where it’s typical to rely on employers for healthcare?

As Roderick Long describes in his article “Medical Insurance that Worked — Until Government ‘Fixed’ It,” it was once common for workers to join a friendly society or fraternal society. These were essentially mutual aid organizations where monthly fees created a pool of resources that participants could draw on in time of need. They often negotiated contracts with doctors to serve members for a reasonable expense paid by the organization. Regulation and government programs prevented these organizations from continuing to serve the public.

I’ve talked about mutual aid societies in the past and how they were effectively legislated out of existence once the government decided it was going to enter the welfare market. Abolishing mutual aid societies is something we’re still feeling the effects of every day. Instead of each person or family being able to freely choose between numerous competing societies each person or family is usually forced to accept whatever health insurance company is being provided by their employer. Part of this is because health insurance has gotten so expensive that employer contribution is needed by many just to afford the cost.

People arguing over whether or not employer provided health insurance needs to provider contraceptive coverage need to take a step back, look at the situation, and ask themselves why the hell their employer is even involved in providing health insurance in the first place.