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October 3, 2018

How to Get Free (or Low-Cost) Birth Control

Navigating the United States healthcare system as a woman can feel like the ultimate long con, especially when it comes to birth control access. There have been efforts to restrict or revoke our trusty pill from the day our foremothers willed oral birth control into existence [1]. Frustrating? Extremely. Impossible to overcome? No way. We’ve got this.

Here’s the current state of the union:

At the time of writing, access to safe and reliable contraception is recognized as a key preventive healthcare service under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Despite this, contraception access is wound tightly at the core of a messy debate that continues ignite our national stage on a daily basis.

The president’s current target is Title X of the Public Health Service Act, a federal grant program which was signed into law by the Nixon administration to ensure that women of all economic circumstances have access to the birth control of their choice so they can have children on their own terms [2]. Mr. Trump’s changes to Title X mandate that providers prioritize natural family planning, aka “the rhythm method,” which has a failure rate of 24% [3]. In addition, the current administration wishes to remove the requirement that Title X providers offer a full-range of 18 FDA-approved contraceptive methods [4].

This means that providers potentially won’t be required to offer your specific birth control method of choice — an IUD, a specific brand of birth control pills, patches, hormonal injection — whatever it may be. In other words, providers would have free reign to pick and choose which birth control methods align with their ideology.

While the national debate rages on within the the highest corridors of power, the best thing a resourceful woman like you can do is stay informed, know your rights, and be aware of the multitude of options still currently available to you.

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If you’re interested in obtaining the pill for free or on the cheap, here are the nuts and bolts:

Currently, a prescription is required for birth control. You can obtain a prescription from your general practitioner, OB-GYN, or local health clinic — or online from EmmeRx! In certain states you can obtain a prescription online or directly from your pharmacist [5] [6]. You should be able to obtain this prescription for free or cheap under your insurance plan or at a local clinic. When it comes to turning that prescription into an actual pack of pills, choose your own insurance adventure below and read on.

If you have insurance:

If you have enrolled in a health insurance plan independently, receive health benefits from work, or are under 26 years old and #blessed enough to be listed as a dependent on a parent’s plan, you are in luck. At the present moment, most insurance plans will offer birth control to you at zero cost under the Affordable Care Act [7]. Plans under ACA will also typically cover the cost of your doctor’s visit if you need to go in for a prescription consultation or renewal.

Even if you are insured, here’s one thing to keep in mind when filling your prescription: some insurance policies may only cover certain brands or generic pills. If you are on a pill that agrees with your body and you know that you don’t want to make any changes to your prescription whatsoever, make sure you communicate that to your doctor.

If your insurance policy changes and your particular brand is no longer covered, your doctor may be able to help you jump through some bureaucratic hoops to get you back on track. If he or she is unable to get your preferred bill covered, speak to your doctor in-depth about side effects that concern you most so that they can recommend a different pill that will address your needs.

If you are uninsured:

Life happens, and once in a while you might find yourself operating out-of-pocket on the birth control front. If for any reason you don’t have insurance at the moment, get to know your state’s current contraception access laws [5].

Depending on your citizenship status and income, you may qualify for Medicaid [8] or another state program that can assist with birth control costs. Organizations like Planned Parenthood are equipped to help you find a clinic close to you where you can access care and get prescriptions for free or at a heavily reduced cost [9].

The bottom line:

The frustrating truth about American healthcare is that in order to reap the most benefits, you truly have to be your own advocate. This means speaking up when your prescription feels off, or if you feel like you are being billed when you shouldn’t be. In addition, and this goes without saying, call or write a strongly worded postcard to your public officials if and when proposed changes to contraceptive access in your state would stand in the way of you getting the birth control of your choice, on your own terms, at a fair cost. If you have any questions or need protest sign inspo, slide into our DMs. We’re in your corner.

Resources:

  1. 1. “The Birth Control Pill: a History" https://www.plannedparenthood.org/files/1514/3518/7100/Pill_History_FactSheet.pdf
  2. “Don’t Mess with Title X, Vital for Women’s Health” http://www.contemporaryobgyn.net/regulations-and-regulatory-issues/dont-mess-title-x-vital-womens-health
  3. “How Effective are Birth Control Methods” https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/contraception/
  4. Birth Control Chart — 18 FDA-Approved Birth Control Methods https://www.fda.gov/forconsumers/byaudience/forwomen/freepublications/ucm522453.htm
  5. “Contraceptive Equity Laws in Your State: Know Your Rights — Use Your Rights, A Consumer Guide” https://nwlc.org/resources/contraceptive-equity-laws-your-state-know-your-rights-use-your-rights-consumer-guide/
  6. “Insurance Coverage for Contraception Laws” http://www.ncsl.org/research/health/insurance-coverage-for-contraception-state-laws.aspx
  7. “How Do I Get Birth Control Pills” https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control/birth-control-pill/how-do-i-get-birth-control-pills
  8. Medicaid.gov https://www.medicaid.gov/
  9. Planned Parenthood — Find Health Center https://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-center