Saturday, September 4, 2010

"Choice" In Insurance

Recently a few letters to the editor that appeared in the Daily Tar Heel caught my attention. What struck me about them was not necessarily the topic, but the mindset of the writers that lead them to write what they did. First I need to explain the background. Recently UNC has started requiring that all of its students have health insurance coverage. Because this requirement is mandatory the university has provided a low cost health insurance option for the students. Unless the student provides proof of their own insurance coverage, they are automatically enrolled in the student health insurance plan, which costs the student about $750 a year (WOW! How did they make it so cheap? It was subsidized by the state and federal governments). It turns out that one of the things covered by this student health insurance plan is the cost of having an abortion.

When some people found out that the default health insurance plan for the students included coverage for abortions, some concerned individuals strongly objected to the university and the university provided an option where the students could opt-out of paying for abortion coverage. This would not change the cost of the insurance premium but it would ensure that none of the money paid by someone who had opted out would be used for abortion coverage. Essentially, if someone opted-out then their insurance premiums would go into a separate account that would not be used to pay for abortions. This seemed like a sensible compromise given the situation (though some may argue that it would have been better to have the students opt-in rather than opt-out, but that is a separate issue). In response to this policy there were several letters to the editor in the Daily Tar Heel that addressed this issue. The three letters that I will write about were all pro-abortion and were lamenting the fact that the students were even given the option to opt-out of providing funds to cover the cost of abortions. (Links to the letters: Letter 1, Letter 2, Letter 3).

The three letters included the standard arguments for allowing abortions, which was not surprising, but what was particularly noticeable about what they wrote was their response to the option to opt-out of paying for abortions. As stated in letter 1, "we are concerned about the precedent set by President Erskine Bowles’ recent decision to allow students to “opt out” of sharing the costs of comprehensive reproductive health care in the new student insurance plan." Essentially the letter writers were not expressing a concern about any argument against abortion, or even that someone would be denied an abortion, but that the students were given the choice to not pay for abortions. As expressed in letter 3, "It is upsetting that the DTH [Daily Tar Heel] employs “right to choose” language to portray this opt-out policy". In other words, the main issue here for the writers was not that someone objected to paying for the abortions, but that the students were even given the choice to opt-out of paying for them, and as expressed in letter 3, they were equally offended that the DTH used the phrase "right to choose" to refer to the opt-out policy.

One of the things that was expressed in letter 2 was the idea that refusing to be part of the collective that pays for abortions is equal to denying someone an abortion. Even though abortions would still be covered by the insurance plan, the writers were scandalized by the fact that those who have moral objections to abortion would be given the right to choose not to participate. Again from letter 2, "Regardless of one’s personal feelings on abortion, this trend in removing a standard insurance benefit due to moral objections is disturbing." In other words, for these letter writers, it does not matter the opinions or objections of anyone, everyone should be forced to help, support, and pay for abortions. In short, moral objections are meaningless.

After reading these letters it makes me wonder if they really know what they are saying. Because if they understood what they just wrote, they would realize that they were advocating a tyrannical society in which only a small set of elites were able to have or express an opinion. They are saying that it does not matter what anyone else thinks on the subject, only they are allowed to have their opinions acted upon and become public policy. No one else's opinions are valid. I wonder if they really understand what they are advocating, and if they do, then we really do have problems.

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