“I think it sent shock waves around the entire college health community,” says Dr. Brooke Durland, Medical Director of RIT’s Student Health Center where discount birth control pills have been offered to young women for years. “We were always significantly lower than what a young woman would have to pay if she went and bought it at the pharmacy.”
After last year’s passage of the federal Deficit Reduction Act, RIT is facing the same problem as nearly 900 other colleges and universities across the United States, no more discounted birth control pills. In the past, colleges and universities purchased birth control pills directly from pharmaceutical manufacturers at cut-rate prices. Depending on the college, student health services would then offer students the pill at the same deeply-discounted price, or a slightly increased price, averaging $3 to $15. Some colleges offered the pills for free under student health insurance plans.
Under the Deficit Reduction Act, measures put in place in the early 1990s to stabilize drug prices were taken away, among them the incentives that encouraged drug companies to give deep discounts to low-cost and charitable health care agencies. Across the United States, hundreds of colleges, universities and Planned Parenthood clinics lost discounts for birth control pills.
The higher prices this year are also translating into less choice for young women seeking birth control pills from student health services.
“It challenges us, let me put it that way, it challenges us,” says Dr. Durland, “some of them are not comfortable using their family's health plan for a variety of reasons, so they're paying for it out of pocket.”
RIT’s student health center used to offer five different birth control options, including the popular Ortho-Tricyclen Low pill and Ortho-Evra patch. This year, the health center only offers two generic birth control pills without discount. The birth control shot and Nuva-Ring are also offered, however, they also are not discounted. Dr. Durland says like any other medication, some women have side effects to the pill, less choice of which may make the option less appealing.
“She then has to take something that she doesn't do as well on and that may then discourage her from being consistent and using contraception, those are the concerns that we, as health providers have.”
In many cases, young women seeking name-brand or other prescription birth control options will be forced to get their prescriptions at off-campus pharmacies. If their health insurance or family’s health insurance does not cover birth control, they will be required to pay full price which, depending upon the brand can cost as much as $50 per month.