7 Ways to Pay for Birth Control
By Scott Chudnoff, MD, Chair of Obstetrics & Gynecology
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With the looming changes in the healthcare system, many women are concerned about how they will afford their contraception. Regardless of how the political winds will blow and the changes they bring there are several things that you can consider that may help defray the potentially exorbitant costs that might be associated with birth control. While most of us don’t like to consider costs when making healthcare decisions, the practical side of it is that costs strongly influence what we will consider and have access to. Here are 7 ways you can defray the costs of your contraception without being forced to either abstain or get pregnant. As with any healthcare decision, the best options need to be individualized, and that always begins with a discussion with your healthcare provider.
- If you are using a birth control pill, speak to your doctor about getting a prescription for a generic formulation. Most generic pills are identical or nearly identical to the original formulation and should provide the same level of protection. Switching from a generic to a brand name could mean monthly savings of over $100 depending upon the pill and your insurance plan.
- Another major way to save money can be to use a mail-order pharmacy. Many insurance plans use specific mail-order pharmacies that provide 3 month supplies at a time. Aside from saving you the hassle of having to go to the pharmacy every month and making sure your prescription is refilled, there typically is a much lower co-pay associated with these pharmacies compared to traditional brick-and-mortar ones.
- Contact the company that manufactures your method. Many companies offer coupons or discounts for patients using their products. Additionally, many companies offer programs for individuals with specific financially disadvantaged situations. In many cases, the company may offer the method for free or at a significantly discounted rate.
- Consider using longer acting methods such as the IUD. A typical Mirena IUD which is good for up to 5 years costs about $750 out-of-pocket if not covered by insurance (this number if very variable depending upon where you live and what type of insurance coverage you have). If covered by your plan it may be as little as a $20 co-pay. Regardless, if you have a typical monthly co-pay on your insurance of $30 or more, you would pay off the cost of the Mirena in about 2 years or less. So if you are planning on waiting for over 1-2 years before considering pregnancy again, this may be a great option.
- Price your options out. As with anything, different vendors have different prices. If you have insurance, give your company a call and ask what is covered under your plan and what the costs are for the different formulations. Also, if you have a prescription, call different pharmacies in your area. Frequently pharmacies will have different prices for the same medication, and even a difference of as little as $5 a month can quickly add up to big savings if you’re taking something regularly, especially if it is for years.
- Consider how often you are having sex. If you aren’t regularly engaging in intercourse, then a barrier method such as condoms or a diaphragm with spermicides can be very cost effective methods. You can purchase a box of condoms for as little as $10 for 40 condoms. If you are having sex 3 times a month or less, then it comes out to less than a dollar a month. You also have the added benefit of protection from sexually transmitted diseases with condoms. However, keep in mind that they can only protect you if they are used. Additionally, many doctors’ offices, student centers, and health clinics will offer free condoms.
- Contact your local health department. Many city and state health departments offer contraceptive options at discounted rates and many times offer free options. They frequently have information on obtaining contraception and on the different methods available.