Last week’s decision by a federal court in Seattle ordering a company to include prescription contraceptive coverage in its employee health insurance plan opens the door for lawsuits around the country as individuals and organizations, like Planned Parenthood, challenge other companies to provide this benefit.
The impact of this court decision and the likelihood of these lawsuits adds tremendous pressure to the nation’s business community, which is struggling to provide workers with health care coverage as costs climb and thousands of companies feel increasing pressure from an economy in the doldrums.
While it is not unreasonable to require fairness in how health care coverage is provided to men and women, it is unfortunate that this lawsuit about sexual discrimination in Washington State will more than likely result in more employees, especially at smaller businesses, losing their benefits.
Employer-provided health care insurance is an important benefit in the American workplace, but it is not a right. As the cost of these plans rise, especially as courts mandate expanded coverage, more companies will limit or eliminate health care plans — shifting the burden to employees, many of whom will be unable to afford it.
What happens when the cost of health care insurance overwhelms both businesses and individuals? That’s debatable. However, policy mandates from our courts rarely result in the desired result.
Although it might be “fairer” to cover the costs of prescription contraceptives for working women in America, forcing business and industry to do it is only one more step toward more women — and men — losing all of their health care benefits.