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Radley Balko at the Huffington Post - Input Junkie
November 21st, 2012
10:31 am

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Radley Balko at the Huffington Post
Radley Balko, a major source for information about outrages in the American justice system</a> is no longer adding to The Agitator-- all his posts go to The Huffington Post.

Today's Morning Links:
This is way to smart of a policy to ever get implemented. Plus, making birth control available over the counter takes a way an effective wedge issue, for both sides.

Big news may be on the way from Mars.

Your latest forensics scandal comes courtesy of Portland, Oregon.

Police officer tries to shoot dog, shoots another police officer instead. This is not the same story from a couple weeks ago. Or a couple weeks before that.

The puritanical campaign against e-cigarettes will very likely kill people.

Here is what all your student loan debt bought. This shouldn't be surprising. Grants and subsidized loans have made higher education a bottomless seller's market. That means colleges and universities have an endless supply of money. There's no competitive pressure to keep costs down. Hence, bureaucratic bloat.

FBI SWAT raid ends with agents firing shots at an unarmed woman. It doesn't appear that they found any contraband.</p>

Headline of the day.

Via Reddit, and from earlier this year, this might be the most badass obituary ever written. A few highlights: "At 9, he settled a dispute with a pistol. At 13, he lit out for the Amazon jungle. At 20, he attempted suicide-by-jaguar. Afterward he was apprenticed to a pirate . . . he briefly managed a mink farm."

They're working on making comments easier to find, but at this point the way to get to the comments is by clicking on the post title.

This entry was posted at http://nancylebov.dreamwidth.org/998145.html. Comments are welcome here or there. comment count unavailable comments so far on that entry.

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[User Picture]
From:whswhs
Date:November 21st, 2012 04:31 pm (UTC)
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I saw that OTC proposal for oral contraceptives something like a year ago, from Megan McArdle, back when she was at the Atlantic. I thought it made a lot of sense.

The whole argument about needing the pill to be "free" (that is, paid for by someone else) strikes me as making an issue out of something that really isn't. I checked online lately and found that Planned Parenthood will provide the pill to any woman on a sliding scale from $15 to $50. Even for a woman at the high end—say, a young woman with a good corporate job that has health benefits—$50 is less expensive than buying coffee at Starbucks in the morning; I don't see that as a budget breaker.

And really, oral contraception is almost a textbook example of the sort of medical expense that ought not to be covered by insurance. It's completely predictable and paid out every month; the insurance company knows it will have that expense, and will just raise its premiums to cover it, and charge the added amount every month, plus about 25% overhead for administrative costs and profits; and the added premiums come out of the cost of health insurance, whether paid by a visible deduction from pay or as an untaxed employee benefit—and every dollar the corporation spends on health insurance is a dollar it doesn't have for wages and salaries. So economically it's no better than a wash, except that there's the overhead cost of insurance.

Now if it were an issue of legally forbidding women to use contraception, I'd be up in arms. But having to pay out of pocket? I pay out of pocket for all my medical expenses.
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From:agrumer
Date:November 21st, 2012 07:30 pm (UTC)
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If women have to pay for the oral contraception out-of-pocket, then those particular women bear the whole cost themselves. If it's paid for through insurance, the cost gets passed along to the entire pool of people paying insurance premiums, half of which is probably male, and some of the female portion of which doesn't use oral contraceptives. Even if the insurance company adds 25% overhead, it's a savings for those women.

And while I'm not worried about the ability of well-off women to afford $50/month, I am worried about the ability of poor women to afford $15/month. I've had months where there wasn't an spare $15 in the budget.
[User Picture]
From:madfilkentist
Date:November 21st, 2012 08:05 pm (UTC)
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In other words, they want their stuff paid for at other people's unchosen expense.
[User Picture]
From:agrumer
Date:November 21st, 2012 08:50 pm (UTC)
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Sure. Until the day comes when we live in an anarchist utopia, that's going to happen.

As things paid for at other people's unchosen expense go, I'm pretty happy with it. I'd rather have my insurance rates pay for someone's birth control than have my tax dollars pay to support the kid they didn't want. And I'd much rather either of those things than my tax dollars going to bomb Pakistani funerals and Afghan weddings.
[User Picture]
From:whswhs
Date:November 22nd, 2012 12:48 am (UTC)
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It rather seems to me that the fuss was being made largely by college educated women with decently paid jobs, who by your own argument could perfectly well afford to pay their own costs.

The women so financially stressed that they can't easily afford $15 a month are mostly working for employers who don't have health benefits, and largely still won't under Obamacare (whether because they keep their payroll under 50 people or because they limit everyone to under 30 hours a week, or both), so compelling health insurance to cover it doesn't address their needs. Many of them will be added to the Medicaid rolls, and get provided for by the taxpayers.

So I don't buy your argument. The "think of the poor" part seems to be a coverup for rationilizing relatively well off young women getting part of their cost of living shoved onto other people.
[User Picture]
From:agrumer
Date:November 22nd, 2012 06:22 am (UTC)
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The useful thing about arguing with people on the Internet is that it forces me to research my half of the argument more thoroughly. Up until now, I'd been vaguely aware of Sandra Fluke as an advocate of not allowing religious institutions to exempt themselves from the requirement to have their health insurance plans cover contraception, but I'd never bothered to actually read (or listen to) her testimony. Now I have:

Without insurance coverage, contraception can cost a woman over $3,000 during law school. For a lot of students who, like me, are on public interest scholarships, that's practically an entire summer's salary. Forty percent of female students at Georgetown Law report struggling financially as a result of this policy. One told us of how embarrassed and powerless she felt when she was standing at the pharmacy counter, learning for the first time that contraception wasn't covered, and had to walk away because she couldn't afford it. Women like her have no choice but to go without contraception. Just last week, a married female student told me she had to stop using contraception because she couldn't afford it any longer. Women employed in low wage jobs without contraceptive coverage face the same choice.

You might respond that contraception is accessible in lots of other ways. Unfortunately, that's not true. Women's health clinics provide vital medical services, but as the Guttmacher Institute has documented, clinics are unable to meet the crushing demand for these services. Clinics are closing and women are being forced to go without. How can Congress consider the Fortenberry, Rubio, and Blunt legislation that would allow even more employers and institutions to refuse contraceptive coverage and then respond that the non-profit clinics should step up to take care of the resulting medical crisis, particularly when so many legislators are attempting to defund those very same clinics?

[...]

In sixty-five percent of cases, our female students were interrogated by insurance representatives and university medical staff about why they needed these prescriptions and whether they were lying about their symptoms. For my friend, and 20% of women in her situation, she never got the insurance company to cover her prescription, despite verification of her illness from her doctor. Her claim was denied repeatedly on the assumption that she really wanted the birth control to prevent pregnancy. She's gay, so clearly polycystic ovarian syndrome was a much more urgent concern than accidental pregnancy. After months of paying over $100 out of pocket, she just couldn't afford her medication anymore and had to stop taking it. I learned about all of this when I walked out of a test and got a message from her that in the middle of her final exam period she'd been in the emergency room all night in excruciating pain. She wrote, "It was so painful, I woke up thinking I'd been shot." Without her taking the birth control, a massive cyst the size of a tennis ball had grown on her ovary. She had to have surgery to remove her entire ovary.

[...]

Perhaps you think my friend's tragic story is rare. It's not. One woman told us doctors believe she has endometriosis, but it can't be proven without surgery, so the insurance hasn't been willing to cover her medication. Recently, another friend of mine told me that she also has polycystic ovarian syndrome. She's struggling to pay for her medication and is terrified to not have access to it. Due to the barriers erected by Georgetown's policy, she hasn't been reimbursed for her medication since last August. I sincerely pray that we don't have to wait until she loses an ovary or is diagnosed with cancer before her needs and the needs of all of these women are taken seriously.

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From:stevemb
Date:November 21st, 2012 08:41 pm (UTC)
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There is an additional complication in this case (and in the case of routine preventative care) -- the insurance company has an interest in encouraging it by subsidizing it and/or by putting the cost "out of mind", because it averts greater expense in the future.

That doesn't address the issue of a one-size-fits-all mandate, of course.

[User Picture]
From:whswhs
Date:November 22nd, 2012 12:56 am (UTC)
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That argument only holds water because of a previous distortion of the health care market through implicit subsidies to comprehensive health insurance at group rates (employer payments for such benefits being exempt not merely from income tax but from FICA). An insurance company dealing with policy buyers one by one has every reason to insist that they get physical examinations before they can get insurance, just as an insurance company protecting business property will want to inspect for safety. Such examinations used to be quite routine. But with the entire work force of a corporation signing up, that incentive has gone away, partly because that work force is a lot closer to a statistical universe, and partly because of the administrative nuisance of making sure that every corporate employee gets that physical examination.
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From:madfilkentist
Date:November 21st, 2012 06:05 pm (UTC)
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I second the recommendation for Balko.
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From:nancylebov
Date:December 13th, 2012 08:10 am (UTC)
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Thanks. So they possibly aren't completely safe, but it doesn't sound as though there's much work yet on whether they're significantly safer than conventional cigarettes.
(Deleted comment)
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