People are very uncomfortable about the idea of women having to pay more for health insurance than men do. Yet in this debate, it’s important to understand that this isn’t an outcome motivated by sexism. There’s a reason women cost more to insure: women consume more health care and therefore have higher costs than men do.
We may decide as a society that we don’t think it’s fair for women to have to pay more (though we accept this idea when it comes to things like life insurance and car insurance, when it’s men that pay more than women). But we need to be clear about what we are doing: we are cost shifting from women to men. And it’s because of this kind of cost shifting that we have to contemplate things like individual mandates: it doesn’t make sense for young men who have very few health costs to buy insurance at a price that includes the costs of things like maternity care.
We may sympathize for women in general because of our high health costs, and particularly for low-income women. But I think there is something offensive about those who simple want to get something for nothing.
Take fo example this article that appeared in the Denver Post, which I wrote about yesterday on National Review’s health care blog. The report highlighted the story of a lawyer, Suzanne Pariser, who complains that she can’t find affordable health insurance and therefore isn’t going to have another child, even though she wants to. Basically, she doesn’t want to pay the roughly $10,000 in medical bills associated with having another kid. She’s angry that the insurance company doesn’t want to charge her a couple hundred dollars a month and give her $10,000 in services. She noted that it would be less expensive over the long-term to pay out of pocket to have the baby than to pay for the policy that offered maternity services.
But what Ms. Pariser is looking for isn’t insurance–insurance is supposed to be what you buy to reduce the risk of unexpected events–she wants someone to pay her bills. Of course the insurance policy is going to cost more than the expected cost of simply having the baby — the insurance company has to build in the possibility that something will go wrong and instead of costing $10,000, she costs $100,000.
Health care isn’t free, and it won’t be free when government is paying for it. Someone has to pay these bills.