Insurance, Sex and Reproductive Issues

Former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina might have blown her chances of being Senator McCain’s Vice Presidential running mate after she told reporters that, as McCain’s campaign advisor, she’s been getting a lot of comments from women who are upset at the unfairness that many health plans cover Viagra but not birth control.

When reporters asked the Republican presidential nominee what he thought about the issue, Senator “Straight Talk” responded, “I certainly do not want to discuss that issue.” McCain was unable to recall that he voted against a 2003 bill that would have required health insurance companies to cover prescription birth control.

Insurance, sex and reproductive issues, power and money, all fall under the domain of Pluto and the sign Scorpio. Health plans that cover drugs for erectile dysfunction (ED) but do not cover prescription birth control, are not only engaging in gender discrimination but also age and economic discrimination. Any form of discrimination in a society boils down to the influential group exerting power and control over another less influential group.

Gender Discrimination: ED medications are for men only; prescription birth control is for women only. Legislators who permit health plans to operate under a double standard are engaging in gender discrimination against women.

Age Discrimination: Most men taking ED medication are older than women taking prescription birth control, so plans covering ED but not birth control are engaging in a form of age discrimination.

Economic Discrimination: Most women still earn less than men. This drug coverage inequality puts a greater financial burden on women who are less able to afford it. The age issue further exacerbates this. A 50 year old woman has either finished her need for prescription birth control or will soon no longer need it once she completes menopause. Yet middle aged and older men are the largest group of ED users – an age group with a higher disposable income level than young women.

Oral contraceptives have many off label uses that have nothing to do with sexuality. Some women taken them to clear up acne, others to alleviate or minimize menstruation and other cycle problems. A woman who chooses to take oral contraceptives for medical reasons is less likely to need to take time off from work as the result of menstrual difficulties. Some health plans will make an exception to cover oral contraceptives for medical reasons, but only if women submit periodic documented proof from their doctor that it is medically necessary.

It makes no financial sense for health plans to cover ED drugs and not prescription birth control. If a man taking his health plan covered ED drug impregnates a woman, insurance will pay a lot more for pregnancy and maternity care than the cost of covering birth control.

Politicians pander to religious and special interest groups that want to exert their power by trying to limit women’s reproductive freedoms. Power is another form of discrimination. Interestingly, these same groups do not seem to have a problem with ED drugs even though (unlike oral contraceptives) their sole existence is for sexual gratification. These male needs are viewed as a God-given right. Unfortunately some people still place less importance on a woman’s pleasure, let alone her right to control her own body.

Legislators need to make health plans end the discrimination now by either covering prescription birth control or dropping coverage of ED drugs. A better way to end discrimination and lower costs would be to make oral contraceptives available over the counter (sold like cigarettes from behind the counter to women 18 and over).

Carolyn Ehrlich LCSW, CGP specializes in Relationship Counseling NYC. I increase your self- awareness and help you gain more insight into your inner-life. We’ll work together so you can get more out of every day and meet any challenge life throws at you.