Pregnancy Coverage and Gender Equality

Pregnancy Coverage and Gender Equality

A while back, I made the conservative case for mandatory pregnancy coverage: It socializes the cost of childbearing, an effect similar to that of the conservative-supported child tax credit.

In National Journal, Lucia Graves makes a very different argument, saying that women shouldn't have higher insurance premiums because otherwise fathers won't pay for pregnancy:

The argument for gender rating, in the days before the Affordable Care Act, had always been that women cost more to insure. But if we ignore all costs directly associated with pregnancy and childbearing (the logic here being that it takes two parties to create a child and both parties should be willing to pay equally to support that endeavor), men aren't actually any cheaper to insure than women.

The flaw in this kind of argument, as I explained in my post detailing the problems with the "gender equality" case for mandatory coverage of birth control, is that men and women already split these kinds of expenses in most cases. With birth control, married couples tend to pay for it out of a joint account (or at least work it into an overall plan for who pays for which expenses), while dating couples come to various arrangements for how relationship-related costs are handled -- arrangements that can be unfair to the man just as easily as they can be unfair to the woman.

With maternity coverage, there is similarly no gender-equality argument to be made when it comes to married couples, who give birth to 60 percent of children: Paying for the mother's health care is a joint responsibility no matter what her insurance looks like. So the gender-equality case for pregnancy coverage boils down to an argument for socializing (and thus reducing) the costs of unwed childbearing -- aside from the rare woman who is widowed during pregnancy, those are the only cases in which both parties don't already "pay equally to support that endeavor." Some small portion of this cost will (quite rightly) fall upon the fathers of the children in question, but these fathers won't actually be singled out for higher premiums.

This might not be the best reason for a government mandate.

Robert VerBruggen is editor of RealClearPolicy. Twitter: @RAVerBruggen

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