Plan B, Hobby Lobby and Ridiculous Expectations

4 Jan

I’ll be the first to admit that Hobby Lobby is not my favorite store. I just don’t have much use for what they sell. I’ve always respected their business, however. Like Chik-Fil-A, the leaders of Hobby Lobby try to make sure their business is shaped by Christian principles. This is commendable and sometimes costly. As the requirements of the new healthcare bill come into effect, Hobby Lobby will be required to provide morning after pills as part of its healthcare insurance or face a fine of 1.3 million dollars per day for non-compliance. Hobby Lobby has resisted providing the morning after pill because it can act as an abortifacent, causing a fertilized egg to not implant and thus preventing a conception from having the right to life. Since pro-life people believe life begins at conception, not implantation, they oppose forms of birth control which prevent implantation. So morning after pills like the Plan B pill are viewed negatively by most pro-life people.

This is where the controversy with Hobby Lobby comes into the picture. With the new health law, Hobby Lobby, whose leaders are pro-life Christians, object to being required to pay for drugs which have an abortifacent component. They claim that their first amendment rights of religious freedom are being violated. In this, I agree with them and support their costly stand. Even if they never have to pay the fines (which is by no means a sure thing) they have still spent much on legal fees and have taken a controversial stand based on principle. So I applaud them. I commend them. I support them, even if I won’t be shopping for a vase filled with bright red silk flowers any time soon.

But here’s the thing. Do you know how much these Plan B pills cost? A morning after pill costs anywhere from $10-70. Do you know what it costs if it is insured? The insured person currently pays a co-pay of $10-30. What is my source for these claims? A general health care cost website and none other than Planned Parenthood.

Now again, I agree with Hobby Lobby here. It is a matter of principle. Hobby Lobby is not going to lose millions of dollars if they chose to provide morning after pills for even a large number of their 22,000 employees. In fact if they provided a morning after pill to every employee (even the men!) at its maximum price the cost would be barely above what they would pay in fines for one day. Surely a multi-billion dollar company like Hobby Lobby is not going to haggle over what would in fact be a sliver of their total health care costs. They really are taking a stand on principle. And it seems the Obama administration is as well, as they seem to want to press this matter so that all are given access to Plan B or other morning after pills.

So we’ve got these two sides, Hobby Lobby and the government, going toe to toe over principle but we miss another part of the story that is so important: the unprincipled American people who expect their every health need to be taken care of by insurance or the government. What have we become when we can’t buy a $10 pill? Are there really any employees of Hobby Lobby who will not be able to afford the $10-70 cost of the pill if they want it? Hobby Lobby is not preventing them from having it, they are just not wanting to pay for the pill. But the government wants to press the issue and they do so for the most part with hearty approval by most Americans.

Our insurance system and our medical system is broken not only because of institutional failures but also because of a failure by we the people to take responsibility for our health and to take measures to cut costs. Yes there may be expenses that are beyond our ability to pay and so we need insurance, but there are so many smaller things we refuse to pay for that in the end drive up the cost of everything.

I wish more of us would carry catastrophic insurance and pay for the rest. We would save so much and competition would drive prices down for more minor services across the board. I know many people can’t do that but we can do more than we think, even if we don’t make very much.

I feel sorry for Hobby Lobby. They’re in a position they shouldn’t have to be in if we just lived with a little less of an entitlement mindset, a mindset that is firm in most of our government officials and, sadly, in large numbers of our citizens.

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