“Crony Contraception,” or Why the HHS Mandate is Even Worse Than You Thought

As we wait for the Secretary of Health and Human Services to hand down her latest edits to the First Amendment, let me suggest a little light reading to pass the time.

I just came across this interesting column by David Catron at The American Spectator, in which the author connects the dots between the Administration’s adamant defense of the HHS Mandate and the drug companies that stand to profit from it. Here’s the heart of the piece:

Why would the Obama administration, having won the legislative struggle to get Obamacare passed and fought a brutal legal battle to prevent it from being overturned by the Supreme Court, risk another visit to that fickle tribunal by insisting on this egregious mandate?

An answer is suggested by the President’s recent nomination of William B. Schultz to head the legal team at Health & Human Services. Never heard of Mr. Schultz? He is an attorney and long-time lobbyist for the pharmaceutical industry. He has been acting general counsel for HHS since last year. What has this to do with the contraception mandate? Well, as Tim Carney of the Washington Examiner has pointed out, Schultz’s biggest client was “Barr Laboratories, maker of the morning-after contraception pill known as Plan B.”

Contraception is big business, and the HHS mandate promises to turn it into a cash cow for companies like Barr Laboratories. How? Avik Roy explains: “Under the current system, drug companies have an incentive to compete on price.… Under the new mandate, this price incentive disappears.” Insurance policies that covered contraception prior to the mandate encouraged patients to forego pricey products by charging higher co-pays than for generic equivalents. The HHS mandate forbids such co-pays, so there is no incentive to choose “Brand X.”

Principled disagreement about the nature of religious freedom is one thing; cynical cronyism at the expense of basic freedoms is something else entirely. Catron’s column is worth reading in full.

UPDATE: The new “Notice of Proposed Rulemaking” is out. You can read it, here.

Stephen P. White is a fellow in Catholic Studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, DC and coordinator of the Tertio Millennio Seminar on the Free Society. The views expressed here are his own.

2 thoughts on ““Crony Contraception,” or Why the HHS Mandate is Even Worse Than You Thought

  1. Ah, yes. When you can’t make a cogent argument, invoke the “pharma shill” gambit and posit nefarious conspiracies that the reason your opponent is taking the position he’s taking is because he’s in the pocket of big pharma. http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/the-pharma-shill-gambit/

    1. Joe M says:

      Ah, yes. When you don’t want to address the cogent argument that is most common and widely presented, pretend that a post about a little-talked-about aspect represents the entire argument.

      Nice try David.

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