National Partnership for Women & Families

In the News

NATIONAL POLITICS & POLICY | Increase in Contraceptive Costs at Colleges Reaching Crisis Level, Advocates Say

NATIONAL POLITICS & POLICY | Increase in Contraceptive Costs at Colleges Reaching Crisis Level, Advocates Say
[Jan. 28, 2008]

The increase in contraceptive costs sold at student health centers on college campuses and some community clinics is becoming a crisis, some advocates for birth control access said recently, McClatchy/Raleigh News & Observer reports. According to some advocates, packets of birth control pills have increased from between $5 and $10 for a monthly supply to between $40 and $50 (Hotakainen, McClatchy/Raleigh News & Observer, 1/27).

The cost of birth control at college campuses increased last 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.

Some college clinics have stopped stocking some contraceptives. About 400 community-based family planning clinics also have been affected by the financial disincentive for the drug companies. 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 (Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 11/27/07).

Officials at Planned Parenthood Federation of America say the higher prices are limiting access to birth control for many students, adding that Congress should make the issue a top priority. PPFA has worked with Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) on a bill (S 2347) to fix what they say was a legislative error that Congress never intended.

Obama in November 2007 said that "no woman should be turned away from university clinics and health centers because the cost of prescription drugs is out of reach." He added that the bill would not result in any additional costs and would restore the ability of pharmaceutical manufacturers to offer discounted drugs. McCaskill said, "Allowing drug companies to give away drugs at a cheaper price is something we should be encouraging everywhere."

According to McClatchy/News & Observer, no abortion-rights opponents have said they will advocate against the bill. Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee, said NRLC has not taken a position on the legislation. "I don't think there's significant opposition because it's a technical fix," McCaskill said, adding, "If they call, I'd say, '[H]ey, this is one we ought to agree on. We're not talking about providing birth control in grade school, for gosh sakes. We're talking about women who are old enough to lose their lives for us in Iraq.'" A similar bill (HR 4054) is pending in the House (McClatchy/Raleigh News & Observer, 1/27).