Bobby Jindal, who’s wooing religious conservatives ahead of 2016, has been pushing this idea since 2012. He anticipated the loophole in yesterday’s Hobby Lobby decision: Even if the feds can’t require a (closely held) corporation to cover contraception for its employees, there’s nothing stopping HHS from requiring insurers to cover it for “free,” i.e. through a cost-spreading mechanism that ropes in the wider population. That would solve the religious-freedom objection — Hobby Lobby’s money would no longer be directly applied to pay for abortifacients to which it objects — while guaranteeing that birth control remains effectively subsidized for employee. The only losers are … everyone else, now collectively on the hook for the subsidy.
Jindal’s alternative: Why not boot the pill out of the realm of health coverage altogether by making it available OTC? If the morning-after pill is available without a prescription, it stands to reason that a morning-before pill should be. Costs would drop, personal responsibility would be championed, and the religious-freedom problem to all this would be solved. Congress could, as Jindal suggests, even adjust Health Savings Accounts so that they include OTC medicines, which would further reduce the financial burden. And politically, it would complicate the Democrats’ dopey “war on women” messaging by decoupling the contraception debate from the debate over abortion. How do you push a “Republicans don’t believe in reproductive freedom” message if GOPers like Jindal want to make the pill OTC?
Philosophically, it’s consistent with limited government principles. It removes unnecessary government regulations and increases choice.
It doesn’t impose new burdens on businesses or religious institutions, nor does it require an increase in government health care spending.
And politically, it would also be beneficial to Republicans. It would make it a lot more difficult for Democrats to portray the GOP as being only interested in obstructing Democrats rather than supporting their own ideas, and harder to accuse Republicans of being broadly against access to birth control…
If Democrats oppose the move, they’ll have to explain why they want to force women to go through their doctors to obtain birth control and make it harder for uninsured women to gain access.