Sunday, March 4, 2012

What Rush Limbaugh Should Have Called Sandra Fluke

     This week, Sandra Fluke, a third year law student at Georgetown University in Washington DC, spoke before Congress's Democratic Steering and Policy Committee.  She was denied the opportunity to testify at an earlier hearing regarding religious liberty relative to the new mandates in the Affordable Care Act because her remarks were deemed irrelevant to the topic.  In her opening remarks, Fluke presented herself as primarily speaking on behalf of other women at her school, saying, "I am here to share their voices." The remarks that followed would probably have passed largely unnoticed, but unfortunately, Rush Limbaugh used a caricature of her testimony on his radio show to label Fluke with some rather vulgar and unflattering epithets.  Some bloggers used dubious claims from Fluke's speech to create a sex-crazed-students scenario at Georgetown and Limbaugh ran with it.  I will not go into detail, but regardless, the impression given of her remarks bore little resemblance to Sandra Fluke's actual testimony.
    Indeed, reading a transcript of Fluke's testimony, one would hardly make the connection between birth control and sex.  Fluke told of a friend who was ill-treated by the insurance company who refused to cover the birth control medication to treat ovarian cysts.  In this case, the Georgetown policy actually covered the prescription for non-contraceptive purposes, but for whatever reason the insurance company disputed her claim.  Serious medical complications resulted after her friend stopped spending the $100+ per month out of pocket for the prescription.  If the insurance company truly denied a legitimate claim, it should be called to account, and since Georgetown is a law school after all, there should be plenty of opportunity to file a lawsuit.  But did this 32-year old woman seriously have no other options (family, credit card, public health facility) other than giving up a prescription she knew was vital to her health?  And in any case, the story says more about the insurance company claims process than it does about birth control coverage since the policy included coverage for non-contraceptive reasons.
    The most heart-rending story involved a woman who had been raped and did not even go to the doctor because she said "she knew birth control wasn’t covered, and she assumed that’s how Georgetown’s insurance handled all of women’s sexual healthcare."  Were the police even called after this woman was assaulted?  Surely they would have provided information that would have dispelled such a misguided notion and gotten her the medical attention she desperately needed and that her insurance would surely have covered.  At a minimum, the federal Violence Against Women Act requires states to provide a forensic medical exam to sexual assault victims free of charge. This story is horribly tragic, but again, it says less about birth control insurance coverage than it does about the woman's family and friends whose apparent ignorance did this woman a grave disservice.
    So what about this coverage that Georgetown students are offered?  Georgetown University lists details about student health insurance on the Student Affairs section of their website.  Students are given the opportunity to obtain coverage through the school, or they can maintain other coverage if it meets certain minimum criteria as follows:
You may waive the Premier Plan offered by the University during the Open Enrollment Period, if you have other adequate health insurance which meets the following criteria:
  • Coverage of at least $100,000 per illness and $100,000 per injury; 
  • Plan in effect no later than the last day or your applicable Open Enrollment Period; and 
  • Plan will remain in effect for the remainder of your academic year.
Note what is missing.  Students are not required to certify that "my plan does not cover birth control."  Students may maintain their own policy with whatever coverage is provided as long as it meets those three simple criteria.  They are not being forced into Georgetown's plan in spite of the impression left by Fluke.
    But what if a student goes with the school's plan?  The Premier Plan policy indeed excludes birth control.  It also excludes, among other things, any type of treatments for infertility for both men and women (see page 29.)  Is Georgetown anti-baby as well as anti-women?  Is this another example, as Fluke puts it, where "a woman’s health takes a back seat to a bureaucracy focused on policing her body"?  Nonsense.  Decisions about coverage and benefits are based on a broad criteria including risk, demographics, and cost, not the whims of employers or insurance company underwriters.
    And what about the cost?  Fluke testified that birth control can cost a woman $3,000 during three years of law school, or $1,000/year.  So how much does the Georgetown University student health insurance policy cost that according to Fluke should be forced to include contraceptives and birth control free of charge?  According to Georgetown University's website, their Premier Plan for a single student has an annual premium of $1,895 (higher for coverage of a spouse and/or children.)  Does Fluke seriously believe a contract would be offered to a woman for $1,895/year when over 50% of that premium is guaranteed to be spent on contraceptives?  Is our society completely ignorant of the concept of "insurance"?
    What is most unfortunate in this week's events is the lost opportunity to show the real agenda behind the Democrat's exploitation of Fluke.  Demagogues have hijacked the situation and have used Limbaugh's imprudent language to further cloud the issue and obscure the true threat to religious liberty that the Affordable Care Act and its mandates represent.  Perhaps conservatives can again shift the focus now that Limbaugh has offered a rare public apology for his ill-advised attempt at (as Limbaugh puts it) "illustrating absurdity by being absurd."  Some die-hards are claiming Limbaugh should not have "backed down," but he did the right thing.  And as for Fluke:  how about "propagandist?" or "patsy?" or, most charitably, "naive?"  Certainly not complimentary names, but at least more polite and infinitely more deserved.


  1. Very good point about the fact that Fluke could have gotten her own coverage.

  2. $3,000 a year ? ? ? ....
    with NO health insurance, BC pills cost $20-$50 a month .... and, Wal-Mart, Target and Kroger pharmacies offer a limited selection of generic birth control pills for $9 per month. ...... ......
    also, Clinics such as those operated by Planned Parenthood offer discounted birth control pills to women who qualify.
    And most college campus health centers do the same for enrolled students. ....... ....... ........ health.costhelper.com/birth-control-pills.html

  3. ObamaKare does not have anything to do with insurance for students ..... ....

    United States Court for the District of Columbia, Civil Action #1:11-cv-01989-JEB.

    Plaintiff: Belmont Abbey College.

    Defendants: KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, Secretary of the United States Department of Health and Human Services; UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HEALTHAND HUMAN SERVICES; HILDA SOLIS, Secretary of the United States Department of Labor; UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR; TIMOTHY GEITHNER, Secretary of the United States Department of the Treasury, and UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY.

    If you look at the Defendants' motion to dismiss, at the bottom of page 14, you will find this:

    Plaintiff’s Complaint also makes passing reference to its student health plan, but plaintiff likewise has not alleged any injury from the operation of the preventive services coverage regulations with respect to that plan. Neither the preventive services coverage regulations nor any other federal law requires plaintiff to provide health insurance to its students – much less health insurance that covers contraceptive services. The preventive services coverage regulations only apply to “group health plan[s]” and “health insurance issuer[s]....Only health coverage offered to employees or their dependents qualifies as a group health plan, 42 U.S.C. § 300gg-91(a)(1), and plaintiff is not a health insurance issuer for purposes of the ACA, see id. § 300gg-91(b)(2). If plaintiff chooses to provide a self-insured health plan to its students – and again, there is no requirement in federal law that it do so – then the health plan is not required to cover contraceptive services.


    Translation: According to the administration's own people, Sandra Fluke's demands have exactly nothing to do with ObamaCare, therefore exactly nothing to do with this issue.

    The only reason she was there, was because Democrats needed a bogeywoman.

  4. There are two versions of her testimony. ABC has both versions, one at http://abcn.ws/zAoqyn and the one you referenced at http://abcn.ws/yLqXDR .
    The major difference between the versions are these passages that occur in the first ABC transcript:

    “You see, Georgetown does not cover contraceptives in its student insurance, although it does cover contraceptives for faculty and staff.”


    “…, especially when the university already provides contraceptive coverage for faculty and staff.”

    The testimony she actually read in Congress excludes both passages (*). The ABC transcript of her official testimony that you have linked to shows that first passage to have been rather clumsily removed from the third paragraph, 2nd line. Maybe she meant to include the above text but removed it (or it was removed for her) before she delivered it. The missing text changes the argument of the testimony a bit. The version of her testimony with the included text makes the argument more against Georgetown’s inconsistent policy, with the remedy being universal inclusion of contraceptives. The official version of the transcript with the text excluded makes the argument for universal contraceptives access in order to protect women from those evil Republicans and their backward-thinking Catholic Bishop allies who won’t allow contraceptive access for anyone. Anyone see Pelosi’s hand in this? Or maybe it was Fluke’s decision to alter the originally intended testimony.

    I also sat through the 1 hour+ long faux hearing/lovefest at http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/HealthandC , so you don't have to. And at no point is there a mention of Georgetown already providing contraceptive coverage for faculty and staff.

    (*) Another link to the transcript of the testimony she read is http://bit.ly/xRO4Tv

    1. Thanks for the clarification. Upon reflection, I should have said "prepared remarks" instead of "transcript."

  5. I should add that Georgetown offers three (3) employee health plans that cover contraceptives and one that doesn't (WSJ, “Schools Navigate State Birth-Control Patchwork”, 2/29/12). But because Pelosi-Fluke didn't see fit to mention that, the public thinks liberal Jesuit Georgetown is some uber-strict Catholic institution that is either 1) repressing women or 2) in danger of being forced by Obama to violate its “conscience.” What a joke.