The Beacon Hill Compromise on Contraception — Only in Massachusetts

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The early October newspaper reports highlighted the same point over and over again. A compromise had been reached on the question about contraceptive health insurance coverage in Massachusetts in the event that national Obamacare policy was reformed or repealed.

The word “compromise” usually implies that opposing sides make concessions to one another in order to bridge a significant divide. In this case, that proved unnecessary because no divide ever existed. All of the parties to the arrangement toed the same line about making contraceptive prescriptions available at Massachusetts pharmacies without the routine co-pay usually collected from the insured person. Or as the mainstream media and liberal advocacy groups framed it, “for free.” Of course, “for free” really means that someone else is picking up the tab. In this case, it’s everyone else who pays for health insurance.

No need for genuine compromise presents itself, when all the deal-makers already agree:  Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Planned Parenthood, the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans, NARAL-Pro-Choice Massachusetts, and Democrat politicians who command Beacon Hill. 

If, in fact, one wants to pretend there’s a compromise, let’s at least dub it a “Beacon Hill compromise.” A “Beacon Hill compromise” happens when all the progressive power centers converge on the fundamental outcome; they simply have to figure out how to impose their will on everyone else.

Such a phony compromise demands no “give-and-take” among the influential interest groups involved. Instead, it finds liberal insiders “giving” to themselves and their favored constituencies, while “taking” from others. In this case, the losers are senior citizens and middle-class working families, forced to shell out more-and-more for skyrocketing health insurance co-pays and premiums, yet receiving no relief for their own burdensome co-pays on prescriptions, unless one happens to be a contraceptive prescription.

All the power-brokers — Democrat politicians, insurance company moguls, bureaucrats, activists — loudly proclaim their allegiance to “pro-choice” ideas. Yet, their concept of “choice” rarely stretches past advocacy of abortion and birth control. Choice for those persons who prefer for ethical, religious, moral, conscientious, or pragmatic reasons to avoid paying for abortion or birth control? Forget about it.

Their haughty elitist attitude boils down to:  Zero co-pays for the contraceptive prescriptions that they want, guaranteeing their preferences are subsidized by the higher co-pays everyone else is mandated to fork over for other prescriptions, not matter how medically necessary. That’s not freedom or choice. That’s power, pure and simple.

Among the reigning power-players are the Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts and the Coalition for Choice. On October 3, a joint statement was issued with such potent insurance interests as the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. The statement proclaimed:  “Health plans join providers, and advocates supporting protections for no copay birth control … Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans, and the Coalition for Choice led activists, patients, and providers in testifying before the Joint Committee on Financial Services in support of a redraft of the Contraceptive ACCESS bill (S 499, H 536). The compromise bill would guarantee insurance coverage without cost-sharing for all FDA-approved methods of birth control ….”

There again appear those words and phrases:  “compromise,” “no co-pay,” and “without cost sharing.”

Not part of this “Beacon Hill compromise” was anyone who might speak a word of dissent or ask awkward questions. And not benefiting from the zero co-pay is anyone who fills prescriptions other than contraceptive ones. “Why,” a working family might ask, “must we shell out our limited hard-earned funds for our children’s important prescriptions?” Or a senior citizen might say, “I’m on a fixed income. Why do insurance companies demand co-pays for my life-preserving high blood pressure medication?” And someone who’s obliged to take daily pain medication might be thinking:  “I need to take pain relief pills every day, just to move and make it through to another morning. Why do the Beacon Hill politicians demand that I make a co-pay for my essential prescriptions, or suffer the agonizing consequences?”

These and countless other questions are left unanswered by the Beacon Hill compromise.

And who are some of the “compromisers?” Well, there is the insurance mogul whose generous salary and compensation likely places him within the top one percent of the one percent that liberals usually blame for hammering the middle class. “We’re proud to support this legislation because we believe it’s the right thing to do,” said Andrew Dreyfus, President & CEO at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. Added Elana Margolis, the company’s director of state government and regulatory affairs:  “We support this legislation because it’s the right thing to do.” Not much room for compromise in those statements.

Then there’s the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans (MAHP), representing 17 health insurance behemoths. “We are pleased,” said Lora Pellegrini, president and CEO of MAHP, “to be able to work with legislative leaders and the Coalition for Choice on a sensible approach that will provide … access to this important benefit.”

Not much room for compromise there, either. But that’s no real surprise, when one realizes that Pellegrini had been chief advisor for government affairs for pro-choice Democrat Governor Deval Patrick, after working on the legislative staff of liberal Democrat Governor Mike Dukakis.

It almost seems as though having a line or two in a resume about working for a liberal Democrat politician is a job requirement at the MAHP.

Eric Linzer, MAHP Executive Vice President, was campaign manager and legislative aide to former Democrat state Representative Paul Demakis of Boston. For over a decade, MAHP Director of Regulatory Affairs Elizabeth Murphy held the title Chief of Staff for Democrat state Representative David Torrisi of North Andover. Director of Government Affairs Jason Alulia, who promotes health insurance industry interests on Beacon Hill, held multiple titles for Speaker of the House Sal DiMasi, the disgraced Boston Democrat. MAHP Policy Analyst Ann Chamberlin LaBelle was on the staffs of both Governor Dukakis and former state Representative Warren Tolman, a progressive Democrat from Watertown. And MAHP Medical Director Neil Minkoff was a Deval Patrick appointee to the Massachusetts Group Insurance Commission.

So much for the mainstream media myth that big insurers collude with conservative Republicans. It looks like liberal Democrats have the monopoly there.

Nor is there any need for compromise among liberal activists, liberal insurance honchos, and liberal Democrats on Beacon Hill. They all demand “free” contraceptive prescriptions. In this case, Democrat political insiders include Senate Majority Leader Harriette Chandler of Worcester and House Speaker Pro Tempore Patricia Haddad of Somerset, along with more than two dozen co-sponsors in the Senate and close to 100 co-sponsors in the House. Democrats in the insurance industry and their Democrat allies on Beacon Hill have mandated a preordained outcome that will increase medical costs and decrease choice for virtually everyone in Massachusetts. 

This “Beacon Hill compromise” diminishes our liberties and depletes our wallets.


Joseph Tortelli is a freelancer writer. Read other articles by Mr. Tortelli here.