On Jan. 1, the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 was signed and put into effect. This brought forth multiple changes to national spending to reduce the growing deficit. One unforeseen effect, however, was the increase in birth control prices on college campuses. As a result of the Act, prescription drug companies were forced to end group purchasing discounts, which applies to colleges.
We’ve witnessed this effect at UR. In the spring of 2007, prices for oral contraceptives increased at University Health Services. There is now only one form of the birth control available at $10 for a month’s worth, and two others are offered at $25, as opposed to the $10 they were all offered at before the signing of the Act. As an alternative to purchasing the prescription on campus, UHS is now suggesting that students purchase it at an outside pharmacy or switch to a cheaper form of contraceptive. However, these are not solutions to the problem, just the best options that UHS can offer. The real problem is that the Act must be amended so that undergraduate females can once again receive protection at an affordable rate.
Birth control is not simply a means of contraception, encouraging undergraduates to have lots of sex with random partners; many women come to college and use it as a means of regulation of their cycle. It also has additional benefits. For example, for those who are having sex, a prescription for birth control forces the women to have an annual gynecological exam, which is something that all sexually active women should be undergoing.
The main worry of college health officials across the country is that women will decide that the drug is not worth the money and will take greater risks in their sexual activity. Women have been quoted saying that they plan to stock up on doses of Plan B and use it as their new form of contraceptive. But this is not how Plan B was intended to be used, and such long-term usage may have negative health effects.
While the alternative options that UHS suggests to students may seem reasonable, there are flaws in these options that can’t be avoided unless the effects of the Act are amended. For example, going to a pharmacy off campus provides for an array of issues. First of all, this requires a long walk for most students, as a large number of undergrads do not have a car on campus to take them to a pharmacy. Additionally, a purchase at an off-campus pharmacy would require insurance for a cheaper price. Many students are still on their parents’ insurance plans in college, and they may not want to discuss their use of birth control with their parents and want to keep it confidential. Another option suggested is to switch to a generic form of the pill. However, many women have bad reactions to the generic forms and therefore are required to use a different, more expensive version instead.
The American College Health Association is currently working to make some changes that will allow for the drug companies to provide discounts once again. I hope that these changes come quickly because, if they don’t, there will be a lot of young women at risk who certainly don’t need to be.
Philbrick is a member of the class of 2009.