There Is No Free Condom

Published March 23, 2012

According to the White House and its allies in the media, one of the most pressing issues in the country at the moment is whether all institutions that offer insurance to their employees and students should be forced to provide contraception, abortifacients, and sterilization services free of charge.

Some of these institutions, it turns out, have religious qualms about such things. Not everyone’s so big on this “paying for other people’s contraception” thing. So the White House and its allies are doing their best to make these Puritanical throwbacks feel bad about that.

Yet in all the arguments about conscience and religious liberty, we’re forgetting something: There’s no such thing as a free condom.

Someone pays for these services, wherever they come from. In the case of the contraception mandate, when insurers are required by government to provide something “for free,” it means the cost of everyone’s insurance goes up to compensate–just as it has every year since then-candidate Barack Obama promised us he’d bring our premiums down by $2,500.

Here’s the truth: You’re already helping pay for other people’s contraceptives, whether you want to or not.

If you’re part of the 53 percent of Americans who paid federal income taxes, last year you helped pay for millions of contraceptives distributed to hundreds of thousands of Americans. You may even be more generous than that, since local and state-funded programs go even further than the federal contraception programs.

New York City’s condom program distributes more than 3 million contraceptives a month. The program’s slogan is “Grab a handful and go.” If you pay taxes in Mayor Bloomberg’s city, you’re practically a love philanthropist!

Just think about how much child-avoiding fun you helped uninsured and low-income folks have. And with this economy, lord knows they need it. And the best part is, it’s all free! (Except for the luckless taxpayers.)

Under Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, “It’s all free!” has become a watchword for the whole department. In her statements and speeches, she rolls out the word “free” again and again–a recent press release touted HHS’s offering of “free preventive services to 54 million Americans with private health insurance in 2011.” In the most recent Medicare and You brochure, the word is used more than 15 times.

Of course, none of these things is free. Someone pays for all these services. And if you’re a federal taxpayer … well, you guessed it, that someone is you. All the provisions of the law Sebelius loves to tout are going to come out of your pocket, and your children’s pockets, and their children’s pockets.

This is what happens in an entitlement-based society–it’s not just limited to contraception and preventive services and abortifacients. It’s government based on the understanding that if you give people enough things for “free,” they’ll vote for you again and again, knowing someone else will take care of the bill.

The problem is, eventually the bill comes due. According to the latest projections, in 2020 some 157 million people will qualify for subsidized health insurance, through Medicaid, Medicare, or Obama’s health insurance exchanges. If that seems like a lot of people, and a lot of subsidized insurance for you to pay for, it is. But don’t worry–it’s all free!

Benjamin Domenech ([email protected]) is a research fellow at The Heartland Institute and managing editor of Health Care News.