The Case for Over-the-Counter Birth Control

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While the Affordable Care Act has made it so most women on the Pill no longer have a copay to fill their prescription (score!), you still have to make a doctor’s appointment to get that scrip. And for some women, that cost barrier significantly affects their access to oral contraception — which is why a new study set out to show how over-the-counter (OTC) oral contraception could really change the game.

The study, published in the journal Contraception, found that by making the Pill available without a prescription, there would be an 11 to 21% increase in the number of women using oral contraception, and as a result, the rate of unintended pregnancies would drop by 7 to 25%. In other words, one out of four women could prevent a very big “whoops!” 

However, the number of women effected vary greatly depending on the out-of-pocket cost of the pill pack. Study author Dan Grossman told The Huffington Post that the problem is that making the Pill available OTC won’t really be effective for those who need it most if the packs are not covered by insurance. When the cost of a pack exceeds $20, women’s use sharply declines, Grossman added. 

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So part of making this proposal a reality relies on insurance companies. Most prescription plans don’t cover OTC meds without a doctor’s script, so there would need to be some changes made either on the insurance companies’ or drug companies’ ends to bring the costs down. Also, insurance usually only pays for refills after a certain time, so whether or not packs would be available at any time or only after the regular 28-or-so days is something that would need to be decided.

Insurance companies should want to cover OTC pill packs —in the long run, it’ll mean less healthcare costs for pregnancy care.

Even for women don’t find the cost of birth control to be prohibitive, getting the Pill without a prescription is just simply convenient. Whether you’re on vacation and run out of pills, or missed a few days and need to start over with a new pack, being able to pop by the pharmacy without going through your doc would be much easier.

I’ve gone through some loooong processes of swapping different Pill brands, and never realized the high doctor’s office copays I’d have to pay to just simply sit down with a new doctor for five minutes and ask her to write me a prescription. I’m lucky that I could afford to do that, but for many, sticking to the once-yearly, covered gyno appointment and not having to jump through extra hoops to get their hands on a pill pack could make or break their usage.

READ MORE: Do Birth Control Pills Make You Gain Weight?

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