October 8, 2013

Opposition to ObamaCare is about fairness, not sexism

Filed under: health by Victoria Liberty @ 10:39 pm

It is a common misconception that anyone who is opposed to ObamaCare’s “free birth control” requirement is sexist and is waging a “war on women.” In an opinion piece for CNN, Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood went so far as to call the government shutdown “an attack on women’s health.”

Actually, the opposite is true. In addition to violating individual liberty by requiring all people to purchase a product (health insurance), the Affordable Care Act itself violates basic principles of gender equality and fairness.

First of all, among the provisions of the Affordable Care Act is a requirement that a list of services for women be covered for free, with no co-pay, by all health insurance plans. This includes checkups, domestic violence screening, STD counseling and testing, sterilization procedures, and contraceptives. The law does not, however, require any of these services to be covered for free for men. This is a clear example of gender discrimination. All of these medical procedures are equally applicable to men and women. Men can be abused by their wives or girlfriends, men can get STDs, and men might want to be sterilized or use contraception. There is absolutely no reason to require coverage for one gender but not the other. In fact, doing so reinforces sexist stereotypes  – e.g. that women are somehow more in need of care than men are, that women are inherently more vulnerable to domestic abuse, and that issues of sex and reproduction are “women’s issues” as opposed to men’s issues. Contraception is an issue that affects women and men equally, and it insults and demeans women to claim otherwise. Attempts, which Richards condemns, to abolish these mandatory benefits, or at least to allow employers and/or insurance companies to opt out of them, would actually be a step towards gender equality.

Even if you ignore the sexism of certain provisions of the law, the fact remains that the Affordable Care Act is unfair. Health insurance should cover only services and products that are necessary. Preventative services, such as checkups and screenings, are discretionary. Unlike, say, getting a cast when you have a broken leg, or taking antibiotics when you have bacterial pneumonia, checkups and screenings do not solve any medical problems, and there are valid reasons either to undergo them or not, depending on the individual’s values. The point of health insurance should be to protect people from financial disaster if illness strikes. For insurance to cover discretionary services is unfair to people who prefer not to use these services, as it forces these people to pay for a benefit that is not beneficial to them. Coverage of contraception and STD testing is particularly unfair, because these services have no value whatsoever to individuals who do not have sex. Yes, such individuals are a small minority, but they do exist, and they have a right to purchase insurance plans that work for them, and cover only the services that they need.

Richards writes about how helpful free birth control would be to a married, 23-year-old woman who wishes to have children one day but is not financially ready yet. What she doesn’t mention is how the Affordable Care Act hurts people like me, who will see our health insurance prices increase in order to cover services that we derive no benefit from. Why is it assumed that it is a good thing for people who have sex to receive free products at the expense of people who don’t? If you can afford neither contraception nor children, there is always the option of not having sex. To claim that one person’s right to have sex outweighs another person’s right to choose what to do with their own money, is simply unjust.

In the debate about ObamaCare, the issue at hand is not women’s rights, or women’s access to health services. If anything, feminists should oppose these sexist coverage requirements, since it’s anti-feminist to single women out for special treatment. The main issue is whether the costs of a product should be borne by the people who actually use the product, or by everyone, regardless of whether or not they use the product. In my opinion, the first option is the fair one.

April 7, 2013

Lynch should be praised for ObamaCare vote

Filed under: health,politics by Victoria Liberty @ 10:05 am

Stephen F. Lynch, 2008 cropped

Although I’m planning to vote for a Republican in the U.S. Senate special election, I have to say that I admire Democratic candidate (and current congressman) Stephen Lynch for one thing: his vote against the Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare.

Lynch opposes the law because it failed to include a public option, a government-run insurance plan that may have been a desirable and affordable option for many people, while including something that harms individuals and benefits only insurance companies, the individual mandate that everyone purchase health insurance. At a recent debate he said, “What the insurance companies wanted, they wanted 31 million new customers. We gave them everything they wanted. It was like a hostage situation where we not only paid the ransom, but we let the insurance companies keep the hostages.”

Jeff Jacoby at the Boston Globe wrote an excellent column on the subject, in which he explains as follows:

He was the sole member of the Massachusetts delegation to oppose the bill, and he did so in the face of personal entreaties by President Obama, by then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and even by the widow of Senator Ted Kennedy, who had died just a few months earlier. He did so even though it angered many of his labor-union allies, and despite the president’s enormous popularity in Massachusetts. In the end Lynch was one of just 34 Democrats in Congress – and the only one in New England – to vote no.

Before long he was facing a serious re-election challenge within his own party, the first since he was elected to the House a decade earlier. (The Boston Globe, which had warned Lynch against making “a grievous error” by voting no on ObamaCare, endorsed his opponent in the Democratic primary that fall.) Now, as Lynch and fellow Representative Ed Markey – who says passing the health law was “one of the most important votes of my career” – compete for their party’s nomination in the Senate race, that 2010 vote is back in the spotlight.

What do you call it when a congressman opposes a bill it would be far easier to support, infuriating much of his political base and putting his electoral prospects at risk? Richard Kirsch, a key strategist for the progressive coalition that spent $47 million to get ObamaCare passed, has been calling it “cowardice.” I do not think that word means what he thinks it means.

I agree wholeheartedly. Many people may disagree with Lynch’s position, but only someone who doesn’t understand English could call it cowardice. Taking an unpopular position that results in criticism and puts you at odds with your friends, allies, constituents, the media, the public, the leaders of your party, the President of the United States, and the grieving widow of a widely loved and admired senator is the very opposite of cowardice. No matter what you think of ObamaCare, you have to admit that Lynch’s vote was courageous.

March 25, 2013

Employee “wellness” programs and medical freedom

Filed under: health by Victoria Liberty @ 12:41 pm

2008-08-04 CVS Pharmacy in Durham

CVS recently unveiled a new policy requiring all employees who use the company’s health insurance plan to undergo a medical screening by May 1 of this year, which includes having their height, weight, and blood pressure measured by a doctor, as well as blood tests for glucose and cholesterol, or else be penalized $50 a month. Employees must sign a statement certifying that the screening is “voluntary,” and the results will be sent to WebMD Health Services Group, the company that implements CVS’s benefit programs.

This policy has deservedly faced criticism from privacy rights organizations. Dr. Deborah Peel, the founder of Patient Privacy Rights, called the policy “incredibly coercive and invasive.”

Continue reading…

March 13, 2013

Mass. AG rules towns cannot ban marijuana dispensaries

Filed under: health by Victoria Liberty @ 11:12 pm


Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office ruled that cities and towns cannot enact bans on medical marijuana dispensaries, as several were attempting to do. Although the decision made it clear that cities and towns can enact zoning restrictions on the locations of dispensaries, complete city-wide bans are not OK. The decision was a response to Wakefield’s Article 11. It was authored by Margaret J. Hurley, Director of the Municipal Law Unit of the AG’s office:

Our review of Article 11 presents the question whether a town meeting vote to completely ban medical marijuana treatment centers from town conflicts with state law. We find that such a ban would frustrate the purpose of Chapter 369 of the Acts of 2012, “An Act for the Humanitarian Medical Use of Marijuana” (enacted as Question 3 on the November 2012 state ballot), to allow qualifying patients, who have been diagnosed with a debilitating medical condition, reasonable access to medical marijuana treatment centers. The Act’s legislative purpose could not be served if a municipality could prohibit treatment centers within its borders, for if one municipality could do so, presumably all could do so. Because we find that such a total ban conflicts with the Act, we must disapprove Article 11 on that basis.

It’s hard to argue with that logic. If every city and town banned marijuana dispensaries, the right of Massachusetts citizens to use marijuana for medical purposes would, for all practical purposes, not exist. And if it is ruled OK for a city or town to ban dispensaries, there’s nothing to stop all cities and towns from doing so. In my opinion, this ruling is a victory for medical freedom.

Read the full decision here (PDF).

Source: WBUR

March 11, 2013

Judge strikes down NYC’s large soda ban!

Filed under: health by Victoria Liberty @ 10:29 pm

Coke 003

Justice Milton Tingling of New York’s State Supreme Court struck down Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s ban on large sodas today, just a day before it was scheduled to go into effect. According to Reuters:

“It is arbitrary and capricious because it applies to some but not all food establishments in the city, it excludes other beverages that have significantly higher concentrations of sugar sweeteners and/or calories on suspect grounds, and the loopholes inherent in the rule … serve to gut the purpose of the rule,” he wrote.

He also expressed concern that to allow the health board such sweeping authority would “eviscerate” the separation of powers between the executive and the legislature branches of city government.

Agricultural economics professor Jayson Lusk wrote a great piece on the decision in the New York Daily News, saying among other things:

This schizophrenic paternalism results from an awkward attempt to walk a fine line between a liberal agenda that yields to, even celebrates, freedom of choice and expression when it comes to abortion, sex, speech and drugs — but stops far short when those same freedoms might benefit evil corporations.

It is an odd position that posits us so weak as to fall for anything offered by Ronald McDonald or Tony the Tiger yet so strong to know when to keep a baby alive or which truths to speak to power. A more consistent stance would concede to a better informed elite the power to shelter and protect us from all harm. Tell us what to eat, where to live, what jobs to work and to which gods to pray.

If we are intent on banning everything pleasurable that we want to enjoy time and again, you can also soon say goodbye to coffee, baseball and sex.

If that strikes you as an appalling prospect, here is another consistent stance: Don’t interfere with others’ choices. Sure, mistakes will be made, and we may occasionally be taken by hucksters. Yet a citizenry empowered to make their own choices will take matters more seriously if they know there’s no one else to blame. And, truly, at the end of the day, there isn’t.

February 16, 2013

MA cities and towns should respect medical marijuana rights

Filed under: health,personal liberty by Victoria Liberty @ 11:12 pm

Discount Medical Marijuana - 2

Medical marijuana is now legal in Massachusetts… but that hasn’t stopped local governments from banning it in their cities and towns. For example, in January, the Malden City Council voted to restrict medical marijuana dispensaries and vending machines to industrial areas of the city, banning them from residential or commercial areas. Melrose went further, with its Board of Aldermen voting unanimously, with no discussion, to ban dispensaries entirely. Both Reading and Wakefield held special town meetings in November, where they voted to ban dispensaries as well. Wellesley and Westborough are considering doing the same. In Needham, the board of selectmen voted unanimously to ban both dispensaries and cultivation in private homes. (The Town Meeting will vote on the ban in May.) Numerous towns, including Hingham, Scituate, Quincy, Burlington, Woburn, and Cambridge, are considering temporary medical marijuana moratoriums.

The legality of these bans is up for debate, with the state Attorney General’s office yet to weigh in.

In Lynn, the City Council passed a zoning ordnance prohibiting marijuana dispensaries from being located in the waterfront area or within 1000 feet of a school, park, or residential dwelling unit. For all practical purposes, this means dispensaries would be completely banned in the city. However, Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy vetoed the proposed law. “I believe that such an outright prohibition would be found to be unconstitutional,” she said. “But even if these restrictions were to pass constitutional muster, I suggest that they fly in the face of the expressed preferences of the voters.”

I agree with her. People have a right to obtain and use marijuana for medical purposes, a right recognized by the voters of Massachusetts when they approved Question 3 in November. This law allows up to 35 marijuana dispensaries to be opened in 2013, with at least one in each of the state’s 14 counties. But if every city and town banned dispensaries, then there would be no dispensaries anywhere, completely violating the intent of the law that voters approved. In my opinion, cities and towns should respect the rights of their citizens to use marijuana for medical purposes. Deliberately making it more inconvenient to exercise a right  – for example, by forcing people to travel long distances – diminishes the meaning and significance of that right. Instead of banning medical marijuana, more local governments should follow the courageous example of Mayor Kennedy of Lynn.

January 23, 2013

Bloomberg’s war on people with pain

Filed under: health by Victoria Liberty @ 12:11 pm

Michael Bloomberg 5 by David Shankbone

In the latest in a long line of policies that restrict liberty and violate individual rights in the name of safety and health, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently decided to ban public hospital emergency rooms from writing prescriptions for more than three days of pain medications. Long-acting pain medications such as OxyContin, Fentanyl, and methadone will not be prescribed by emergency rooms at all. Plus, emergency rooms will not be allowed to refill lost or stolen prescriptions.

Critics of the new policy point out that many people with painful conditions are unable to get an appointment with their primary doctor within three days, leaving them without pain relief in the intervening time period. Dr. Alex Rosenau, president-elect of the American College of Emergency Physicians, pointed out that people with hand injuries, for example, are unable to have surgery until their swelling goes away, which can take more than three days. And those who are poor and/or without health insurance may not have a primary doctor at all, leaving them with no way of obtaining pain relief.

Continue reading…

Next Page