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The affordability of the birth control pill has been challenged over the past two years, potentially affecting the availability of the pill for many students across campus.
Olivia Ortiz, the national organizer for the Feminist Majority Foundation, said many student health clinics have increased the price for the pill up to four times the nominal price since January of 2006.
“In some cases, prices went from $5 to $10 up to $40 to $50 for a pack,” Ortiz said.
These high prices have hit locally as well, with the Wardenburg Health Center also increasing of the price of the birth control pills they offer to students.
Jane Dunbar, a pharmacist at Wardenburg, said that prices for the birth control pill vary based on a student’s insurance or co-pay. However, she said for uninsured students, the pill has seen a raise in pricing.
Currently, the lowest price that Wardenburg offers for the pill is $30, which accounts for most generic brands. Dunbar said that most brand name pills currently run anywhere from $45 to $50, which is around the selling price of most other pharmacies.
“We no longer have the opportunity to offer students a discount for birth control,” Dunbar said. “When we did, we charged probably one-third less than most retail pharmacies.”
Ortiz said the higher prices for the birth control pill at campus clinics are a result of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, which she described to be a piece of legislation that reformed the spending criteria for Medicaid, which inadvertently increased the prices for the pill.
According to Section 6001 of the Deficit Reduction Act, prescription pills that are provided by facilities such as intermediate care facilities of the mentally disabled and state-owned nursing facilities are required to be sold at a limited nominal price. Prescription pills offered at other facilities, on the other hand, are not required to be sold at designated minimum prices.
Toni Panetta, the political director for NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado, said that the affordability of birth control, specifically offered through student clinics and clinics that serve low-income women, got caught up in what she call Medicaid’s “clean-up process” and increased as a result.
Dunbar said that Wardenburg was once able to provide students with a discount for the birth control pill, but this deficit legislation has prevented such discounts from happening for years.
“At one point, we had an institutional contract with birth control manufactures,” Dunbar said. “We don’t have those contracts any more.”
In response to the measures taken because of the Deficit Reduction Act, many feminist organizations are pushing for congressional approval of the Prevention Through Affordable Access Act.
The act, which was introduced Nov. 1, 2007, proposes that Section 6001 of the Deficit Act be revised to include that a limited nominal price of prescription pills must also apply to “an entity that is operated by a health center of an institution of higher education, the primary purpose of which is to provide health services to students of that institution.”
Molly Jackson, a spokeswoman for NARAL Pro-Choice America, said that the act has been introduced in both the U.S. House and the Senate and has sponsors for both political parties.
In addition to this piece of legislation, groups like the Feminist Majority Foundation and NARAL are encouraging students to get involved. Both organizations have prepared online petitions demanding for a change in birth control prices on campus.
Ortiz said that it is important for students to become involved because the prices for the birth control pill should be flexible for women living on a student budget.
“What it comes down to is that students are having to chose between paying their cell phone bill and utilities, or paying for their contraception,” she said.
Contact Campus Press Staff Writer Sara Fossum at email@example.com.