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NATIONAL POLITICS & POLICY | Democrats Want Bill to Lower Contraceptive Costs at Colleges, Health Clinics Passed By Dec. 31

NATIONAL POLITICS & POLICY | Democrats Want Bill to Lower Contraceptive Costs at Colleges, Health Clinics Passed By Dec. 31 
[Nov. 27, 2007]

Some Democratic lawmakers have been pushing for a bill (HR 4054) that would lower the cost of contraceptives sold at student health centers on college campuses and some community clinics to be passed by the end of this year, the New York Times reports (Davey, New York Times, 11/22). The measure, introduced earlier this month by Reps. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) and Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), would eliminate a financial disincentive for pharmaceutical companies to provide discounts for college clinics and hundreds of "safety net" health care providers.

The cost of birth control at college campuses increased earlier this year following a change in a Medicaid rebate law that created a disincentive for pharmaceutical companies to provide large discounts on some drugs to colleges. Many colleges tried to maintain costs for contraceptives for a few months by buying in bulk before the new law took effect but had to increase prices when their supplies ran out (Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 11/5).

Some college clinics, including Bowdoin College, have stopped stocking some contraceptives. About 400 community health centers also have been affected by the financial disincentive for the drug companies, the Times reports. Some college clinics have reported decreases in the number of contraceptives sold, and some students have said they switched to less expensive methods of contraception or are relying on emergency contraception.

Eliminating the disincentive is "clearly an issue with wide bipartisan support," Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said. But support for changing the law is not universal, the Times reports. Kimberly Martinez, executive director of the Abstinence Clearinghouse, said, "These young women are relying on this contraception to protect them. But contraception isn't 100% -- for pregnancy or for disease."

According to the Times, potential opposition to the bill has led to the possibility that the measure might be attached to another piece of legislation before the end of the year. "We're not promoting promiscuity," Crowley said, adding, "We're talking about adults, responsible adults who want to do the responsible thing" (New York Times, 11/22).