If I like to go mountain-biking in my spare time, my employer surely isn’t required to cover the cost for the helmet I may wish to wear on the trail.
Ergo, if I consider it safer to pedal about the woods with protective headgear on, I must foot my helmet bill out of my own pocket.
If I enjoy playing ice hockey in my downtime, my employer isn’t required to cover my shin pads. So if I’m worried about damage to my tibia from its colliding with an opponent’s unyielding hockey stick, I’ll have to spring for the pads myself.
In fact, that’s what a salary is for. We go to work to make money not only to be able to afford life’s necessities, such as food and rent, but also so we can bankroll our recreational activities. Our employers certainly aren’t mandated to fund those, at least not beyond doing so indirectly by providing remuneration for our services.
Yet strangely, the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) requires most employers to cover birth control pills, an imposition that, predictably, has gotten lots of Republican panties in a bunch, as the religious right generally opposes contraception as undercutting God’s dictum that we ought to be fruitful and multiply.
In particular, conservatives insist, religiously-minded employers ought to be exempt from having to include contraception coverage in their health insurance plans.
Biblical considerations aside, why should employers have to cover birth control in the first place?
Unless performed for the purpose of procreation (which, of course, obviates the need for birth control), sex constitutes a purely recreational activity, no different from going biking.
It’s what people do for personal enjoyment in their leisure time.
So if a woman deems it safer or more convenient to get laid while on the pill as opposed to monkeying around with condoms or worrying about her partner’s ability to withdraw in time, why should her employer have to cover this extra expense?
In other words, why should employers be required to cover precautionary measures pertaining to one recreational activity but not others? Why should it be incumbent upon companies to provide for whatever accessories their employees desire in order to be able to properly indulge in their private pleasures? What makes birth control pills so inherently different from bicycle helmets? What’s so special about sex?
You could say that sex represents a fundamental human drive, something that humans need, which sets it apart from biking or playing ice hockey.
On the other hand, many people’s need for caffeine trumps even their need for sex, and yet I don’t think the Affordable Care contains a provision that requires employers to cover their employees’ monthly java tab.
Sure, it may well be in an employer’s interest to prevent unwanted pregnancies among their employees, just as it certainly is in every employer’s interest that their employees are reasonably awake and alert when they show up for work in the morning. Therefore, employers are, as they should be, perfectly free to issue whatever perks they want, including covering their employees’ every need regarding contraceptives, caffeine, or anything else for that matter. But handing out perks is very different from being required by law to do something.
Now you could argue that—unlike coffee, helmets, and shin pads—birth control pills must be prescribed by a physician, and hence they fall under medical care.
But then again, getting breast implants and hair transplants are medical procedures as well, but on account of their purely elective nature, employers aren’t required to cover them.
Seemingly upset over a conservative motion that would allow employers to opt out of mandatory birth control coverage, clinical psychologist Michelle Golland posted this on her Facebook page:
Following Dr Golland’s logic, if employers are allowed to opt out of covering my bicycle helmet, the politicians that favor such exemption are getting into (or at least onto) my skull.
If employers are allowed to opt out of covering my coffee bill, the politicians responsible for the exemption are getting into my mitochondria.
If employers are allowed to opt out of covering my noise-cancelling headphones (which enable me set my personal workout playlist on my iPod to a much lower volume in order to drown out the music that blasts out of my gym’s house speakers, thus protecting the health of my eardrums), the politicians are getting into my cochlea.
That said, in a certain percentage of women, birth control pills are used to treat certain medical conditions like endomitriosis. “It’s medicine and women deserve their medicine,” says Senator Barbara Boxer.
Of course, if a woman suffers from a genuine medical condition, and the only medication available to treat that condition happens to have contraceptive side effects, it’s a different story.
Likewise, if someone must knock back several cups of joe a day in order to combat his hypotension, that coffee is medicine, too, in which case, I suppose, his employer ought to cover it. And what about “medical” marijuana? Does the Affordable Care Act, somewhere within its 2,000 and some odd pages, contain a provision that enjoins upon employers the coverage of their employees’ pot and bongs?
Yet apart from strictly medical indications, I’m not quite sure I understand the fundamental difference between sex and other recreational activities such that employers ought to be required to cover precautionary measures relating to the former but not the latter—do you?
Related Post: Sex and Obamacare (Pt. 2)