Birth control could become more affordable for University of Wisconsin women and other UW colleges due to a stipulation in President Barack Obama’s spending bill put in place earlier this week.
The birth control provision would work to undo a mix-up that occurred in the United States Congress when the 2005 Deficit Reduction Act inadvertently prohibited drug companies and “safety-net” clinics from providing discounted prices of birth control to campus health care centers and other clinics of that kind.
The DRA consisted of legislation created to decrease the deficit and take savings out of Medicaid drug costs.
Although individual companies had the ability to set their own prices under the DRA, most could not afford to keep prices low, according to Lon Newman, president of the Wisconsin Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association.
Once the policy took effect in 2007, many drug companies and clinics on Wisconsin campuses heightened their birth control prices from about $5 each month to nearly $50.
“When costs become so high, young women might practice unreliable contraception,” Newman said. “You might have a few more unintended pregnancies, which isn’t a lot, but to the individual woman, one is plenty to make an impact.”
In his new budget, Obama included language that fixed the 2005 mistake, permitting campus health centers and clinics to reinstate the steep discounts or nominal prices.
The move is part of Obama’s efforts to increase access to contraceptives and abortions, limited by former President George W. Bush.
The need for affordable birth control is evident on the UW campus where many young women choose to use contraceptives, according to Chynna Haas, a junior and the support services coordinator for the Campus Women’s Center.
“The decrease would be more accessible for students to be able to afford birth control,” Haas said. “If it is publicized that it is more affordable, there will probably be more women accessing it or seeking it, particularly if the Health Services could lower the student costs.”
UW students can now choose between 19 generic forms of birth control pills that will cost $20 or less per month because the same pharmacy that works with the student health clinic deals with the UW Hospital and Clinics System — a system large enough to generate deals with drug companies that sell the cheaper generic forms.
According to Newman, the decrease in prices — along with the increase in options — is coming at a crucial time.
She said due to the condition of today’s economy and increase in job losses, preventing pregnancy and keeping young women in school is increasingly important.
“Overall, having access to reliable hormonal birth control improves maternal and child health,” Newman said. “It has a positive impact on planned pregnancies because women can determine for themselves when and whether to have children, meaning they could choose to stay in the workforce, pay bills or further education before having a child — all things that are important for families.”