A study published in August in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B…suggests that women on the pill undergo a shift in preference toward men who share similar MHC genes. The female subjects were more likely to rate these genetically similar men’s scents (via a T-shirt the men had worn for two nights) as pleasant and desirable after they went on the pill as compared with before. Although no one knows why the pill affects attraction, some scientists believe that pregnancy—or in this case, the hormonal changes that mimic pregnancy—draws women toward nurturing relatives.
An NRO editorial claimed no. Jonathan Cohn counters:
When you make people pay more for medical care, they consume less of it. This was the basic insight of the Rand Health Insurance Experiment, which most economists consider the gold standard for this sort of research, and countless studies since then. Conservatives should know this as well as anybody, since the whole point of consumer-directed health care – the approach they generally favor – is to increase cost-sharing so that people will use fewer services and wares, thereby spending less money. Of course, the problem with higher cost-sharing (and the reason folks like me are wary of it, depending on the details) is that it can discourage use of medical care that’s beneficial. Studies have shown, for example, that seniors react to higher cost-sharing on prescriptions by cutting back on their hypertension medicine. That’s bad medicine, because it increases the likelihood they’ll get a heart attack or stroke. That’s also bad economics, because heart attacks and strokes are incredibly expensive to treat.
[Cohn] cites multiple studies that followed free family planning services for low-income women in California, including one published in the American Journal of Public Health:
Family PACT contraceptive services provided in fiscal year 1997–1998 are estimated to have reduced the total number of births in California by 7% to 8% in the fiscal year 1998–1999 … The reduction in births also reduced public expenditures for health care, social services, and education for these women and for their children. … averting 108,000 pregnancies saved the federal, state, and local governments more than $500 million at a ratio of $4.48 saved to every dollar expended on family planning services.
Amanda Marcotte thinks so:
Republican-driven political discourse of late has been about nothing but the importance of cutting spending and saving money, and so the GOP should be delighted with this simple and clear-cut promise of long-term savings by making contraception free. The IOM report indicated that the direct medical cost of unintended pregnancy in 2002 was $5 billion, with a savings from contraception that year estimated at $19.3 billion. With nearly half of U.S. pregnancies unintended, there’s quite a bit of room to save money with free contraception…
These new contraception regulations will pay for themselves easily in the short term by reducing the insurance payouts that come along with unintended pregnancies, but insurance companies should expect long-term savings. When children are planned, children are cheaper. As the Guttmacher noted (PDF) in its testimony on these proposed regulations, improved contraception use means women space out their pregnancies more, and putting some time in between pregnancies leads to better birth outcomes with lower medical costs. In addition, women who plan their pregnancies tend to get better prenatal care and are more likely to breast-feed, two behaviors that improve children’s health outcomes and reduce overall long-term health-care costs.
Marcotte adds that rising abortion rates during the recession indicate an increase in unplanned pregnancies, which she links to the fact that women are skimping on birth control for financial reasons. Forcing insurance companies to cover this expense means they pay less in the long run for babies that don’t exist.
Sullivan has more.