Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Birth control

From the Washington Post (registration required) via Feministing, adult women are increasingly forgoing birth control:

Buried in the government's latest in-depth analysis of contraceptive use was the finding that the number of women who had sex in the previous three months but did not use birth control rose from 5.2 percent in 1995 to 7.4 percent in 2002. That means that as many as 11 percent of all women are at risk of unintended pregnancy at some point during their childbearing years (ages 15 to 44).

Researchers at the National Center for Health Statistics took pains to point out that the "increase is statistically significant" and that the "apparent change merits further study." Other analysts called the spike a troubling development that translates into at least 4.6 million sexually active women at risk of conceiving a child they had not planned on.

I find this terribly disturbing. On the other paw, I found out this past weekend that my partner's health insurance changed (a yearly event) and she will now be required to copay for her birth control pills. The price of such a change? Nearly $35 per month and that's with insurance. Without insurance, the cost would be even higher.

Two things outrage me about this: First, it appears that women are, once again, getting ripped off by retailers. The pill has been around for several decades and is taken by millions of women. How can the cost of it be so high? I suspect someone is cheating women here and that the industry is doing this collaboratively. Given the length of time on the market, the popularity of the drug, competition and generics, birth control should not cost more than aspirin.

Secondly, my partner works for a large firm that you might have heard of: Microsoft. She isn't one of the millionaires you've no doubt heard of. She's not a programmer. She's a librarian in their archives. As such, she earns more than your average public librarian, but her status and salary in the company is more comparable to the receptionist than say, an X-Box technician. In other words, she's not living large at the company, but in all fairness, she does receive a number of perks and the job is fairly comfortable, for a large company. Still, $35/month is a hit in her budget. All for birth control pills. For the size and wealth that Microsoft generates, you'd think that this would be one area of their health care plan that they wouldn't touch. Alas, it isn't so. Like most companies in the US, they are pushing away health benefits that in the past they have normally covered. In the long run, this will reach a crisis level and there will be a public outcry to "fix the system". This will probably result in some sort of asinine national health care plan (hey, I believe in a national health care plan, but I suspect the politicians will fuck it up by trying some public/private partnership again a la Bill Clinton). It will also relieve large corporations from the "burden" of providing health care to their employees and shift the costs (read: "burden") onto the average tax payer (aka, said "employees").

Fuck Microsoft for doing this. They aren't the company to work for that they once were. As soon as Shawn finishes grad school, she's likely to move on and who can blame her with this sort of treatment. In the meantime, we'll work something out where I co-pay her co-pay, as it is only fair.

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