WASHINGTON (AP) — Birth control that you must take every single day? A more goof-proof option that costs a lot upfront but then works for several years? Or something in between?
A woman’s choice may come down to her wallet: The price of birth control varies dramatically.
Just the pill has a huge range, from $9 a month for generics to $90 a month for some of the newest brands, plus a yearly doctor’s visit for the prescription.
Want a once-a-month option? The patch or ring could run you $55 monthly.
Even more reliable are so-called long-acting types, those IUDs or implants that can last years but can cost $600 to nearly $1,000 for the doctor to insert.
That’s if you don’t have insurance that covers at least some of the tab — although many women do. And if those prices are too much, crowded public clinics offer free or reduced-price options. But it might take a while to get an appointment.
Questions about cost and access to birth control have been swirling for weeks now, intensifying after a Georgetown University law school student testified before congressional Democrats in support of a new federal policy to pay for contraception that she said can add up to $1,000 a year, not covered by the Jesuit college’s health plan. Talk show host Rush Limbaugh’s verbal assault on her comments became the latest skirmish in the birth control wars.
Soon, the new policy will make contraceptives available free of charge as preventive care, just like mammograms, for women with most employer-provided health insurance. Churches are exempt. But for other religious-affiliated organizations, such as colleges or hospitals, their insurance companies would have to pay for the coverage, something that has triggered bitter political debate.
A major study of nearly 10,000 women that’s under way in St. Louis provides a tantalizing clue about what might happen when that policy takes effect.
Consider: Nearly half of the nation’s 6 million-plus pregnancies each year are unintended. Rates of unplanned pregnancies are far higher among low-income women than their wealthier counterparts. Among the reasons is that condoms can fail. So can birth control pills, if the woman forgets to take them every day or can’t afford a refill.
Only about 5% of U.S. women use the most effective contraceptives — a matchstick-sized implant named Implanon or intrauterine devices known as IUDs. Once inserted, they prevent pregnancy for three, five or 10 years. But Dr. Jeffrey Peipert of Washington University in St. Louis says many women turn them down because of a higher upfront cost that insurance hasn’t always covered — even though years of pills can cost as much.
“How can we cover Viagra and not IUDs?” wonders Peipert, who is leading the new study.
Called the Contraceptive CHOICE Project, the study is providing those options and a range of others for free. Participants also can choose from birth control pills, a monthly patch, a monthly vaginal ring and a once-every-three-months shot. They’re told the pros and cons of each but that the long-lasting options have a lower failure rate.