Archive for Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Birth control prices rise

Students adjust to dramatic cost increase as clinics lose discount

April 11, 2007


KU senior Briana Brothers

KU senior Briana Brothers talks about the price increase in birth control. Enlarge video

Birth control prices raise for college women

You may be surprised to hear that college women are the ones digging the country out of debt. Enlarge video

Just last semester, a version of the birth control pill Ortho Tri-Cyclen cost a Kansas University student $8 per month. Now it costs $38.

That's one example of how the price of birth control at KU and other colleges nationwide has skyrocketed because of a federal law that curtailed the discounts drug makers can pass on to student clinics.

The prices of brand-name drugs have gone up three-, four- and even sevenfold at KU, leaving student health center workers to recommend generic versions of the drugs to students. A 2004 study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that nearly a third of women ages 20 to 24 were on birth control pills.

"I know that there are a lot of people who aren't very happy about it, and I know a lot of people don't fully understand what happened and why it happened," said KU graduate student Angela Badger, who coordinates peer health education for KU's Student Health Services. "I think it's never a good thing when you restrict someone's access to something like that. It's the equivalent of tripling prices for condoms. You're kind of putting someone at risk of doing something unsafe or unhealthy."

The reason for the change is a provision in the federal Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 that didn't go into effect until this year. In essence, the law changed the formula for how drug prices are calculated under Medicaid and made it financially impractical for drug companies to keep offering deep discounts to student health centers.

"We're having to pay the average wholesale price on everything," said Diana Malott, associate director of KU Student Health Services.

KU senior Briana Brotherson said she found out this month when she went to fill her prescription for the NuvaRing - a relatively new, once-monthly contraceptive - that the price had gone up from about $8 to $42 per month. She switched to a daily pill.

"I don't know that many girls would stop taking birth control, but to possibly switch to something that's less desirable for them, that's still a burden," she said.

Earlier this year the head of the American College Health Association wrote a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services urging it to draft a rule that restores the incentive to offer drug discounts to student health centers.

"Many students simply cannot afford increases in the cost of their contraceptive drugs in the face of sharp increases in the cost of their education," executive director Doyle E. Randol wrote. "In the long run, the high cost of drugs and services and logistical problems will undoubtedly lead to reduced testing and use of contraception and a higher rate of unintended pregnancy, undetected health problems, and untreated gynecological disorders."

- 6News reporter Haley Harrison contributed information to this article.


Ragingbear 10 years, 11 months ago

This idea from the same people that brought us abstinence only programs.

SettingTheRecordStraight 10 years, 11 months ago

Why was the government even involved in drug pricing in the past? Government, get out of our lives.

cyclelust 10 years, 11 months ago

How typical is this? I would expect no less from our "fine" government. Mass vasectomies anyone?

sourpuss 10 years, 11 months ago

As well, quite a number of college students are married. Are you suggesting they not have sex with their legal spouse? Or be forced to use a condom, which many married couples do not want to do? Shame on the government for this trickery.

jonas 10 years, 11 months ago

Theoretically, no. But historically, you're really quite wrong. Might as well say you don't have to kill each other. Clearly, we do.

Bobbi Walls 10 years, 11 months ago

the abortion rate will now continue to rise..

KS 10 years, 11 months ago

You don't gotta screw!

werekoala 10 years, 11 months ago

This is another wise and farsighted policy on the part of an administration that's just chock full of them.

Let's make birth control harder to obtain, just at the time that people are statistically most promiscuous! Brilliant!

And then let's complain about rising numbers of abortions and unwed mothers and welfare recipients and costs of free/reduced lunch and child health care!

Bubarubu 10 years, 11 months ago

And heaven knows KS, there's no reason for contraceptives other than free sex? I mean, let's ignore the therapeutic use of the pill to control debilitating pain from heavy periods, abnormally heavy periods leading to anemia, endometriosis, etc. There's no reason we should focus on those things when we can instead make a cheap joke about promiscuous college students, no reason at all. At the same time, women should also be in control of their bodies, particularly when it comes to reproduction. So not only are you a heavy-handed, over-moralizer, but you're wrong anyway.

Now, where is my coffee...

Drew Alan 10 years, 11 months ago

I understand the uproar, especially since I am a college student who is getting married who isn't planning on having children for several years. However, I must say that students should not have to complain about paying a $30 increase in their cost of a monthly prescription. Most students I know spend that much on one night out at the bars, or on dinner and a movie. This really just means that students need to be more financially responsible. Or they can just do what my fiancee and I did and get an IUD. About 200 dollars for 8 years worth of birth control, no pill to remember, no patch or ring to change, no unnatural hormonal changes!

freethinker22 10 years, 11 months ago

I am a student and I use the Student Health Services' pharmacy for all of my medicine, including birth control. I have no problem using the generic, I use off-brands for most things. My main problem with this is how birth control was targeted. I do not use it for contraception, I use it to prevent multiple medical conditions that will occur if I do not regularly menstruate, which I do not if I am not on birth control. In addition to birth control, I use Allegra D and I think my part of helping the Deficit Reduction Act is taken care of with this medicine. I pay 99.55 a month for it, A MONTH!

Can someone explain to me how the government just randomly chose certain "drugs" not allowed to be contracted with reduced costs?

Also, if there is a generic form of the medicine available for the same reduced price, then how does this help the Deficit Reduction Act?

Adrienne Sanders 10 years, 11 months ago

I agree that this is a shame, and a dumb move, but you know what's a lot more expensive than any birth control?

A baby.

If you really are so strapped for cash that you can't afford $30 or so a month, try applying to Planned Parenthood. They give reduced prices to people who really are in financial need.

bytheway 10 years, 11 months ago

Natural family planning isn't necessarily a bad thing. Why do these kids think they need to have sex to prove themselves to men. I learned the hard way. I now have an almost 8 year old to prove my point. Natural family planning is FREE. Abstinance is FREE! Think about the future and what you are doing to your body by putting chemicals in it. Yuck.

acg 10 years, 11 months ago

Thank you dulcinea! $38 a month is nothing compared to the price of a baby. I guesstimate that my daughter costs us an additional $1000 a month, easy. Someone above said they should budget better, and they should. Drink less beer, buy less weed, eat out fewer times or what not. The rest of the world has to budget for their meds and expenses. It's about time these kids grew up and got a good hard dose of reality.

ControlFreak 10 years, 11 months ago

bytheway: "Why do these kids think they need to have sex to prove themselves to men."

Why do some people think that women have sex to prove something? Maybe they just like having sex. People rarely suggest men have sex to prove something.

I like sex! I don't want children! The two do NOT have to go together. Get over it.

Ragingbear 10 years, 11 months ago

~~Why do some people think that women have sex to prove something? Maybe they just like having sex. People rarely suggest men have sex to prove something.~~

WTH are you talking about? Just try to be a male and being a 16 year old virgin, or 17, or 20, or 21, or older. Men are expected by society as a whole to have sex early and often to "prove" their manhood. If you don't believe that, just think about movies such as "American Pie" and "40 year old virgin". and virtually every movie made in the 80's that didn't have to do with extreme violence and gore.

Linda Endicott 10 years, 11 months ago

Quite frankly, a lot of young women out there think that if they don't give their bf what he wants, they'll be dumped. And far too often, young men DO dump girls who won't "put out".

Girls don't always have sex because they really want to. They don't always wait until they're ready. Some do it because they're pressured into it.

What would your automatic assumption have been, ControlFreak, about a young man in high school or college, who openly admitted that he was a virgin? Even if he was on the football team and built like Chuck Norris?

Godot 10 years, 11 months ago

From The Tartan, Carnegie Mellon student newspaper:

......"Prior to the DRA, student health centers were exempt from Medicaid laws that required companies to pay a certain amount of money back to the government to ensure that Medicaid patients were getting the lowest price for the drugs. This allowed drug companies to sell drugs in bulk to non profit clinics like student health centers. This method enabled companies to gain customer loyalty and the student health centers to reduce out-of-pocket costs for students, according to the American College Health Association (ACHA).

As of January 1, however, the law was changed to include college health centers among the organizations that have to pay the government to compensate for offering lower prices to its patients. Therefore, health centers have been forced to charge more for prescriptions to pay back the government.

The reason was that, since college students weren't included in the average price from which companies had to make up the difference, they were paying approximately 15 percent less than their non-college-affiliated counterparts. The government was forced to charge all these counterparts the same discount, or bring the price at college health centers up to par with that of free clinics and hospitals.

In addition, Congress became aware that some drug companies cheated the system by selling discounted drugs to for-profit hospitals in order to increase sales, according to the ACHA...."

Here is the link

cyclelust 10 years, 11 months ago

This may come as a shock to some of you, but a lot of women actually like to have sex.

Linda Endicott 10 years, 11 months ago

Well, yeah, a lot of women like sex...but as far as the first time they do it, a lot are pressured into it.

BJ Adema 10 years, 11 months ago

Birth control pills may be needed for some medical conditions, but casual sex is not a medical condition--it is a moral decision.

Women who are not in college, or not on welfare don't receive such huge discounts no matter what their use of the pills, so why should students? And I can hazard a guess that a large percentage of college students are covered by their parents insurance and prescription drug plans (like my children are).

Even if you believe that you "have to have sex," that is your choice-but the cost of avoiding the natural consequences needs to come out of your pocket, not mine. So stop whining, stop blaming the government, start taking responsibility for your choices, and pay up.

bugmenot 10 years, 11 months ago

Somehow, as a woman, a man built like Chuck Norris, does not get me excited.

And about bearing the cost of sex? I don't see the men who are having sex having to pony up an extra $30 for the privilege. Why should the women? It's a moral decision made by two parties, but only one of those parties must bear the cost.

hawklet21 10 years, 11 months ago

Right on, bugmenot. and hawkperched. But still, isn't 30-38 dollars a month cheaper than raising a child? Maybe? Isn't that... two cans of baby formula?

trinity 10 years, 11 months ago

about a can&a half, hawklet. ;) to the best of my recollection now.

holler if ya need an extry $30-38 bucks, hawklet; when i've dug myself out of poverty-i'll gladly help, hahahaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! :)

fletch 10 years, 11 months ago

"And I can hazard a guess that a large percentage of college students are covered by their parents insurance and prescription drug plans"

Not exactly true. The Department of Education released a report in 2005 saying 31% of college students have no health insurance, and slightly less than half had insurance on their own or through their parents. The remainder had only partial coverage, primarily through colleges.

BJ Adema 10 years, 11 months ago

fletch... a guess is just that... a guess, but at the same time your data is two years out of date. It also does not address the responsibility of the student on their life decisions.

trinity 10 years, 11 months ago

um hawklet? you may wanna check&see if insurance covers birth control! i think it does-oh wait i do believe you're bright enough to be taking advantage of that! :)

never's a long, chilly, rainy, icky, painful day out here in lala land. oh hey check out the herald, lots of goin's-on around your fatherland!

bugmenot 10 years, 11 months ago

Yes, $30 a month is cheaper than having a baby, but by that logic, $800 is cheaper, too. Does that mean birth control should cost these women $800? The whole point is that the cost of birth control jumped a lot for women who are statistically the most likely to be sexually active and who are the least likely to have a steady stream of income or insurance.

What's more, their decision to have sex shouldn't even be an issue (I was married in college, so I needed birth control for "non-promiscuous" reasons; plus, there are LOTS of girls on the pill for medical reasons.) My point is, if you're going to make it an issue, these women are having sex with other men. Those men deserve to bear the wrath of the holier-than-though just as much as these women. They also should have to bear the cost of the birth control.

Confrontation 10 years, 11 months ago

"Women who are not in college, or not on welfare don't receive such huge discounts no matter what their use of the pills, so why should students?"

This is not exactly true. Women of any age or income can use the Health Department's services and receive incredibly cheap drugs and exams. The have a sliding fee scale. I don't know if this stupid change in the law affected the HD's program. Watch our taxes skyrocket to pay for the increase in babies if the HD program can't provide cheap/free drugs.

Ragingbear 10 years, 11 months ago

Sex is not really a lifestyle choice. It is ingrained into our genes to reproduce. It is a raw instinct. Yes, we are able to control our instincts and desires, but only to a certain point. When things like extreme stress (Like from mid-terms or finals) alchohol, and peer-pressure start adding to those biological urges, it becomes almost overwhelming.

Can one still resist? Sure, it is possible. It's also possible for people to quit smoking cold turkey. Does that mean that we should just expect everyone to stop? No. That would be as asinine as saying that just because one person was able to stop smoking after 20 years and was just able to put down a cigarette and never be tempted to touch one again, that everyone has the willpower and fortitude to do the same.

$38 dollars is a lot. For those that are below the poverty line, working a full time job AND attending college so that they can make something of themselves, that $38 can mean the difference between proper meals for a month, or eating nothing but Raman noodles. Or it could mean not having enough money for gas to go to school and work.

This by no means justifies unprotected sex. Nor does it mean that people that have sex should not be prepared for any and all consequences. What it DOES mean is that the unwanted pregnancy rate is going to rise. Of that there is little doubt, no matter what our opinion. It also means that there will be an increase in abortions. So you right-to-lifers can get off your high horse on this as well. It is also going to result in even more unpleasant scenarios. Back alley abortions for those that can't afford to go to a clinic, or are trying to hide the pregnancy from parents/boyfriend/church, abandoned newborns. Even more horrible aspects that I will leave up to your imagination.

I would also like to point out that this is not something that our taxes was originally paying for. This was a service offered by the gigantic drug companies. This was offered by their choice, not the government. But those in the government, not content to try to outlaw abortion and force bible studies and prayer in public schools are actually trying to outlaw birth control. This is merely an early step in that direction.

bugmenot 10 years, 11 months ago

I'd just like to add to Ragingbear's excellent comments that I knew a couple of girls from my high school who went to colleges that didn't have these reduced-cost pills available. They went ahead and had sex anyway, as young people (male and female) are wont to do, and they just hoped for the best. That's what removing birth control does. It doesn't make people say, "Well, I guess it's too expensive to have safe sex," it makes them say, "I'm going to have sex anyway, but I hope nothing bad comes of that." For politicians to blind themselves to this inevitable reality is short-sighted and asinine. And, Ragingbear is right, girls who do this and get pregant are either going to raise a child in a pretty sad financial and family picture (unmarried college dropouts don't make the best mothers sometimes) or they're going to have an abortion. If what you really care about is saving fetal lives, what you need to do is prevent pregnancies. That's not what religious right wants, though. They care more about people not having sex than they do of the children produced from sex. I think they believe that by banning abortions, it'll cause people to not have sex. It doesn't work by limiting access to birth control, and it won't work by limiting access to abortions. People have been having premarital and extramarital sex for Lord knows how long now (hell, my Glamour yesterday said 88% of women born in the 1940s had sex before marriage) - GET USED TO IT. Help young women make positive choices to protect themselves (and the potential lives they may be creating) from unwanted pregnancies. Make birth control readily available.

moo 10 years, 11 months ago

Thank you! I was reading these comments and just kept wondering, "where are the people defending us?" As a sexually active college woman who recently saw birth control (obtained through planned parenthood, by the way, this isn't limited to colleges) skyrocket to a point where I can barely afford it, I can't help but wonder, "why am I being attacked for making good decisions about my sexual life." Yes, abstinence is cheaper, and yes so is family planning. However, for someone like me who cannot predict their cycle without birth control, family planning is useless. As for abstinence, I'm sorry, I enjoy sex. Most of the girls I go too school with do to, and have never (very thankfully) been pressured into sex at all. Men aren't punished financially for having sex, women should not be either. This double standard has got to stop! Birth control should be affordable for ALL women. I really hope that the male contraceptive thing pans out, so that we can stop baring all of the responsibility.

Linda Endicott 10 years, 11 months ago

Moo, even if the male contraceptive thing pans out (or male birth control pill, as some call it), chances are that they still won't share the costs of having protected sex. After all, they aren't the ones who get pregnant, are they?

A lot of men would not spend the money to be protected.

And I might point out to you that, though you enjoy sex, birth control pills do NOT protect you from STDs.

s_may 10 years, 11 months ago

how 'bout just not having sex till you want a kid? it IS a rational answer you know

bugmenot 10 years, 11 months ago

No, it isn't. Most people believe that a healthy sex life is integral to a healthy life. Married and unmarried people engage in healthy, safe sex for pleasure. There's nothing wrong with that. If you're repressed enough to believe that sex only exists to create children, you're entitled to that belief. Others who don't feel that way are entitled to pursue safe sex without having your beliefs pushed on them in an effort to make what you believe to be immoral decisions cost prohibitive. Do you really want the reason that other people behave in what you deem to be a morally acceptable way to be because they can't afford to do what they really want? You're not exactly winning any moral battles there.

Linda Endicott 10 years, 11 months ago

But just because a male birth control pill may someday be available doesn't mean that girls wouldn't still have to pay for their own birth control.

Men might not think it's as important to protect against pregnancy. And even if a guy said he was taking the pill, would a girl be smart to believe him? Or would she be smarter to take her own precautions anyway?

Yes, sex is part of life. Yes, people are going to do it, married or not. But in this day and age, pregnancy is not the only thing you have to protect yourself against.

And, unfortunately, there is no such thing as safe sex. There is unsafe sex, and, through birth control methods, safer sex. But no such thing as totally safe sex.

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