The Rising Cost of College Contraception

Federal legislation has made birth control unaffordable for college students


| September 20, 2007


It's gotten a lot more expensive for college women to buy birth control this year. As many students returned to campus this fall, higher prices of hormonal contraceptives like the pill and the patch have many cash-strapped collegians reevaluating whether birth control is worth the extra cash. At Arizona State University, the online student publication ASU Web Devil reports that birth control prices have risen roughly 200 percent in the past year.

Universities across the country cite similar numbers, and blame the same culprit for the price spike -- the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005. The act, which went into effect in January, was designed to slash the federal deficit by $40 billion. To do that, the legislation recalculated Medicaid prescription rebates, and universities found themselves cut out of the drug discounts they had relied on.

Already Ann Roth, the campus pharmacy manager at the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW), has seen sales of birth control dip and sales of Plan B -- the emergency contraceptive commonly referred to as the 'morning after pill' -- rise, the Wilmington, North Carolina, Star-News reports. Roth has stopped selling the Ortho Evra skin patch all together since its new monthly price of over $50 wiped out demand.

Universities have seen this problem coming since the bill was signed in January of 2006. Schools like Washington University in St. Louis assembled stockpiles of birth control in anticipation of the increased prices. Now the drugs bought at previously discounted prices are running low. The oral contraceptive Tri-Cyclen Lo, which once retailed for $20 per month at Washington University, now costs $40, according to the school's newspaper, Student Life .



College papers are sounding off on the issue. At Cornell University, a recent editorial in the Cornell Daily Sun inveighs against the school's administration, which no longer offers free HIV testing and has done nothing to offset the high prices of birth control. 'Rising costs create disincentives for students to practice safe sex,' charges the paper. 'We believe that the University's failure to address this problem head-on is downright dangerous.'

Roth has similar concerns. 'I just worry about unwanted pregnancy in this population,' she tells the Star-News. 'It results in them having to drop out of school and not complete their education.' Another fear is that young women won't get the additional reproductive health care they received when they came in to campus clinics for prescriptions. 'My concern,' the American College Health Association's director, Mary Hoban, tells the Star-News 'is we'll lose women who have annual exams.'














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