Rise in prices of birth control pills hits US campuses hard

23 October, 2007

The female students of San Jose State University, California, the United States, and some other campuses are facing a “vital” problem of the extra-curricular kind – rise in the prices of contraceptive pills.

Pharmaceutical companies began increasing prices for birth control pills after the deficit-reduction Bill of 2005 that focused on Medicaid, which is the main health insurance form for the poor, according to a report.

The Bill was aimed at keeping mandatory federal spending under control, and one way to do this was to cut Medicaid costs by limiting pharmacy reimbursements. According to Patricia Benfield Jones, a pharmacist at San Jose State University’s Health Centre, pharmaceutical companies have either started raising their prices or ending contracts with school health centers.

The companies are now offering the discounts they once offered to school health centers only to businesses that offer their product to lower-income families. Health centers offer prescriptions to people of all income brackets, so they cannot keep their previous contracts with the pharmaceutical companies.

Some students are now paying over $50 for contraceptives because pharmaceutical companies are ending the huge discounts college health centers once received.

Students used to pay $15 a month on some college campuses such as the University of Alabama, according to an article published in The Crimson White, the university’s school newspaper.

The Crimson White quoted Fiona Hughes-Smith, a senior sociology major, as saying: “Since I have been buying birth control at the Health Center for the last two years, I have paid the same price. I pay $20 if I buy it individually or $42 for three months.”

With the pharmaceutical companies raising prices, when the Health Centre runs out of Ortho Tri-Cyclen Lo, a popular oral contraceptive, the Centre will no longer offer it to students.

Through some insurance providers, birth control pills can cost as little as $5 for a three-month supply of generic-brand pills, or $15 for brand-name birth control. Also, those students who are taking Ortho Tri-Cyclen Lo would have the possibility of remaining on it and the price could be cheaper.

According to Spartan Daily, of the San Jose State University, Arielle Cohen, a sophomore graphic design major, uses her father’s health insurance to buy her birth control pills. The university’s newspaper said that, when Arielle Cohen first came to San Jose State University, she checked to see if the Health Centre carried her brand of birth control, but it did not.

“I totally would buy it on campus if they had it, that way my dad wouldn’t have to pay extra insurance costs for me,” Spartan Daily quoted Arielle as saying. For students without health insurance, San Jose State University’s Health Centre pharmacist Patricia Benfield Jones recommends visiting Planned Parenthood because they can usually offer cheap or free birth-control options.

According to Spartan Daily, Lauren Gray, a sophomore political science major, said she could not afford the prices at the Health Centre and that she gets her birth control from Planned Parenthood. “The most I’ve ever had to pay for birth control is $25. When my insurance ended, I was going to get my birth control from school, but it costs too much. Planned Parenthood is free, so it just makes more sense to get it from them.”

Patricia Benfield Jones says that San Jose State University’s Health Centre is trying to do all it can to make contraceptives affordable to students, Spartan Daily reported.





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