Big Rise in Cost of Birth Control on College Campuses

23 Nov

Published: November 23, 2007

In health centers at hundreds of colleges and universities around the country, young women are paying sharply higher prices for prescription contraceptives because of a change in federal law.The increases have meant that some students using popular birth control pills and other products are paying three and four times as much as they did several months ago. The higher prices have also affected about 400 community health centers nationwide used by poor women.

The change is due to a provision in a federal law that ended a practice by which drug manufacturers provided prescription contraception to the health centers at deeply discounted rates. The centers then passed along the savings to students and others.

Some Democratic lawmakers in Washington are pressing for new legislation by year’s end that would reverse the provision, which they say was inadvertently included in a law intended to reduce Medicaid abuse. In the meantime, health care and reproductive rights advocates are warning that some young women are no longer receiving the contraception they did in the past.

Some college clinics have reported sudden drops in the numbers of contraceptives sold; students have reported switching to less expensive contraceptives or considering alternatives like the so-called morning-after pill; and some clinics, including one at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Me., have stopped stocking some prescription contraceptives, saying they are too expensive.

“The potential is that women will stop taking it, and whether or not you can pay for it, that doesn’t mean that you’ll stop having sex,” said Katie Ryan, a senior at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, who said that the monthly cost of her Ortho Tri-Cyclen Lo, a popular birth control pill, recently jumped to nearly $50 from $12.

Ms. Ryan, 22, said she had considered switching to another contraceptive to save money, but was unsure which one to pick. She has ended up paying the higher price, but said she was concerned about her budget.

“I do less because of this — less shopping, less going out to eat,” said Ms. Ryan, who has helped organize efforts to educate others on campus about the price jump. “For students, this is very, very expensive.”

Not everyone is troubled by the price increases. Some people said they wondered why college students, many of whom manage to afford daily doses of coffee from Starbucks and downloads from iTunes, should have been given such discounted birth control to begin with, and why drug companies should be granted such a captive audience of students. Others said low-priced, easy-to-attain contraception might encourage a false sense of security about sex.

“From our perspective, this does bring to light a public health concern, but for a different reason,” said Kimberly Martinez, the executive director of the Abstinence Clearinghouse, which advocates abstinence from sex until marriage. “These young women are relying on this contraception to protect them. But contraception isn’t 100 percent — for pregnancy or for disease.”

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One Response to “Big Rise in Cost of Birth Control on College Campuses”

  1. selenasd December 22, 2007 at 4:07 am #

    I just glanced at the MSNBC article on orgasms and there are a lot of points I take issue with. Take the introduction (which was, significantly, included in our newsletter): “Studies show that about 10 percent of women have never experienced an orgasm, and 50 percent of women have had trouble getting aroused at some point… What can men do to help women reach orgasm?” This little excerpt puts forth the idea that orgasm is the ultimate goal of sex, and that women are less capable of achieving that “success” than men, which is a perspective I find problematic. Also, not only is the idea that women need men to help them reach orgasm heteronormative, but it also makes it seem like women need a partner in order to have an orgasm.

    Generally throughout the article, the points these “experts” make are ridiculous— women are different from each other and from men, some women are more inhibited than others, genetics plays a role in one’s sex life, most women occasionally have difficulty becoming aroused, etc. How are any of these things specific to women? How is it productive to single women out as needing help “defining” what feels good and needing tips in order to learn how to have orgasms?

    This article does have some relevant points, but I think that you should include a caveat if it includes (as I believe this article does) perspectives that the SHPRC does not necessarily espouse.

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