THE TREATMENT SEPTEMBER 25, 2009
We now have video of today's exchange between Senators Jon Kyl and Debbie Stabenow over requiring that insurance policies cover specific benefits--in this case, maternity benefits. It's worth considering Kyl's quote in full:
I don't need maternity care and so requiring that to be in my insurance policy is something i don't need and make the insurance more expensive.
Kyl's statement is absolutely true. He doesn't need maternity care and never will. If we require that all insurance policies cover maternity care, then the insurance he buys will be a little more expensive.
Kyl's view, widely shared by members of his party and fellow conservatives, is that making him pay that extra sum would be wrong. It reduces his ability to make choices and forces him to bear costs that are not his responsibility.
But somebody who needs maternity benefits--that is, a woman--didn't choose to be born with a uterus. It was the result of fortune, or divine intervention if you prefer, just like being born with diabetes or the genes that predispose you to cancer.
Kyl was born with a "Y" gene. For this, he's earned the right to pay lower health insurance premiums?
To be sure, not all medical expenses are completely out of our control. Lifestyle choices can certainly influence everything from whether we get heart attacks to whether we (or our partners) get pregnant. That's one reason that some financial incentives to encourage healthy behavior, like charging higher premiums to smokers, make sense.
But there's a great deal over which we have little control, from genetic anomalies to random car accidents to economic circumstances in childhood. That means every single one of us face the risk of substantial or even catastrophic medical bills.
Sharing that financial burden collectively is not just the sensible thing to do. It's the right thing to do.