Money Is Fungible, Contraceptive Edition

| Fri Feb. 1, 2013 10:58 AM PST

Hey, guess what? Contraception is back in the news! HHS proposed a new set of of healthcare rules today that would allow faith-based nonprofits to opt out of contraception coverage entirely. Instead, their insurance carriers would be required to provide contraceptive riders at no cost. If an organization is self-insured, they'll notify their plan administrator, who would find an insurance issuer to provide "separate, individual health insurance policies at no cost for participants." The cost would be offset by adjustments in "federally-facilitated exchange user fees that insurers pay," whatever that means.

As you can imagine, this is likely to have no impact on the debate at all. Conservatives who are outraged about contraceptives being covered by health plans will remain outraged. The rest of us, who think covering contraceptives is a great idea, will be perfectly happy to accept this kludge.

And, let's be honest, it is a kludge. There's no such thing as "no cost." If an insurance carrier covers contraceptives, that's a cost they're going to make up somewhere else. And that somewhere else is in the premiums for the main policy. There's really no way around that.

In other words, money is fungible, a subject that liberals and conservatives alike treat with abandon depending on whether they happen to like the consequences. In this case, liberals are willing to accept the fiction that the money for contraceptive coverage is somehow "segregated," and conservatives aren't. When bailed-out bankers pay themselves big bonuses and swear that not one dime is coming from bailout funds, the roles are reversed. All good fun.

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