RealTime: Bill Addresses Birth Control Pricing Crisis

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RealTime: Bill Addresses Birth Control Pricing Crisis

Emily Douglas

Tomorrow, Rep. Joseph Crowley will unveil a bill aiming to correct the loophole that prevents college and university health care centers and safety-net providers from accessing affordable birth control.

Over one hundred members of Congress are joining Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY) to co-sponsor a bill to restore access to discount-priced birth control to college health centers and other safety net providers, Rep. Crowley announced today. The bill, entitled Prevention through Affordable Access Act, addresses what Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, calls "the growing birth control pricing crisis."

As an unintended consequence of the Deficit Reduction Act (DRA) passed in January, drug companies can no longer sell birth control at discounted prices to college and university health centers and other safety net providers. Oral contraceptives, which may have cost ten dollars per month prior to the passage of the DRA, now can cost up to fifty dollars per month.

"Unintended pregnancy is a serious public health problem in America," Richards commented, one which three million women will face this year. According to the American College Health Association, about 40 percent of sexually active college women report relying on pills and other prescription forms of birth control.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt could easily close the loophole that currently prevents drug companies from offering affordable prescription contraception to college health centers and safety-net providers, but he has thus far not taken action to do so, as Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) has written on this site. Rep. Maloney and Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) have cosigned a letter to Secretary Leavitt that has gone unheeded. Noting Leavitt's inaction, Richards said, "At this point we absolutely need Congress to act."

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Calling this bill a "win-win," Richards said she hoped for speedy passage. "It's mainstream, it's pro-prevention, it's pro-women's health," she said. Rep. Crowley emphasized that the bill "doesn't cost taxpayers a dime." The bill will go into effect immediately upon being passed by Congress and signed by President Bush.

Want more? Read Dawna Cornelissen's "Behind the Price of Birth Control" on Rewire!