No Co-Pay Birth Control is Overdue

As Sarah noted last week, the Institute of Medicine released a report that recommends, among other things, that birth control be considered preventative medicine – and rightly so. As the Atlantic Wire points out, “Nearly half of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended, and about 40 percent of unwanted pregnancies end in abortion.”  Increased birth control access can prevent unintended pregnancies, and decrease the need for abortion. As a result, the IOM is advocating that birth control be available at no cost to women as a part of the implementation of the health care reform package.

No co-pay birth control is seriously overdue, ya’ll. NPR reports that, “98 percent of sexually active women will use contraception at some point during their reproductive years, and that cost concerns are frequently cited as a reason for inconsistent use or use of a less then optimal method.” That is because women currently pay between $15 and $50 a month in co-pays for birth control pills — which equals $180 to $600 a year! Consequently, more than one-third of all women have struggled to pay for prescription birth control at some point in their lives.

Just to clarify, the IOM recommendations will not be the equivalent of “free” birth control – the IOM recommendations simply state that birth control should be available without a co-pay price. Women will still have to pay their insurance premiums. However, as an article in Colorlines states, “the women who plunk down about $5 to $50 a month for, say, the Pill are already paying their insurance premiums. This would just lighten their financial load.”

The majority of Americans support insurance coverage for birth control. Did you know that:

  • Almost three-fourths of voters believe that health insurance should cover the full cost of prescription birth control.
  • This is true across different demographics and constituencies. Full coverage of prescription birth control is supported by the majority of Republican women voters and Catholic women voters.
  • The vast majority of women aged 18–34 believe that prescription birth control should be fully covered.
  • A whopping 98% of Catholics and 99% of Evangelicals support birth control usage.

Yet despite this widespread support for access to birth control, Secretary Kathleen Sebelius of the Department of Health and Human Services has been noticeably silent on the Institute of Medicine’s recommendations. The HHS was supposed to make an announcement on Tuesday of this past week, but that announcement has been delayed (for a grand total of three times) until Monday, August 1st at 2 PM EST.  Politico is guestimating that the delay could be over the issue of including a conscience clause in the implementation of the IOM recommendations. In my opinion, conscience clauses are total bullshit, and they make the IOM’s recommendations meaningless.

Let’s see some action on universal access to birth control, Secretary Sebelius. Including a conscience clause is a cop out. If a woman is unable to fill her birth control prescription because a wanky pharmacist tells her that they object to her right to control her reproductive destiny, it won’t matter how much the prescription costs.


About Serena:
Serena is a freelance writer who enjoys baking, protesting, and playing with little dogs.


  1. Firecracker says:

    Hearing about this news earlier this week gave me hope. Conscience clause or not, this is pretty huge.

    Babies cost a bazillion times more than contraception does. Doing all that you can to cut back on unnecessary costs should be considered basic common sense. Ya think? SMH.

  2. I’m with you! Enough with tiptoeing around the delicate feelings of pharmacists. They are not clergy, they are not doctors, they are little more than glorified clerks and pill counters. If they’re looking for a job with a grand soul-satisfying mission, they should look elsewhere.

    No one seems to care about the feelings of the actual women anti-choice legislation affects. And being forced to look at a sonogram or having to wait till Big Brother says you’ve had a long enough time out before having an abortion is a lot more galling than filling out a prescription.

    Maybe they need to write this on the blackboard a thousand times: “A whopping 98% of Catholics and 99% of Evangelicals support birth control usage.”

    In other words, this really isn’t even a debate amongst conservatives. So let’s move it along, shall we?

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