The Hurdles for Obtaining Birth Control Pills and Why We Need to Talk About Them

While the most obvious reason for a person to start taking birth control is to prevent pregnancy, it is far from the only reason. Women may begin taking oral birth control pills for various reasons such as,  acne, anemic, to regulate periods, control their PMS, minimize cramps, and treat various other medical issues connected to hormones. Unfortunately, this type of medicine can be very difficult for some people to obtain. 

Naturally, when I was younger, I  assumed that because of the wide range of uses of birth control pills they should be easily accessible to women who have a menstrual cycle. I quickly discovered I was sadly mistaken. When I spoke to my pediatrician about taking birth control to treat my acne, I was quickly dissuaded. My doctor refused to write or even refill a birth control prescription because it often “gave girls the ticket to start having sex” and told me I would have to regularly visit a gynecologist, which I wasn’t comfortable with yet. Birth control was presented to me as something scary, dangerous, and unnecessary at that stage in my life.  I essentially was told at my age I did not need it and was prescribed an acne cream and birth control was never discussed again at my visits with that doctor.

Three years later I decided it was time I began taking birth control and I went to my college’s wellness center where I had no trouble  obtaining a prescription. It was not until three months later I hit another roadblock. At the pharmacy, I was told by my insurance provider that they did not cover birth control, and it would cost me over forty dollars out of pocket. This shocked me because  it had completely paid for it for the past few months without any problems. I had previously heard legally insurance companies had to cover birth control drugs. I immediately spoke to my insurance provider and, was informed that for birth control I needed prior authorization after the first three months. I had never heard of prior authorization and had no clue how to obtain this. Blue Cross Blue Shield defines prior authorization as “an extra review to ensure it is the right medicine for the situation” and goes on to state “[d]rugs require prior authorization for a variety of reasons, such as when a drug has dangerous side effects or can be harmful when combined with other drugs; when a drug should only be used for certain health conditions; when there is a less expensive drug that may work better; or when a drug is often misused or abused,”. In a nutshell, the doctor who prescribed you the drug has to call your insurance company and confirm you, in fact, need the drug. Basically, insurance companies use prior authorization as a loophole to avoid paying for birth control while the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obama care, requires insurance companies to cover all FDA approved birth control without a copay.

After further research, I discovered, much to my horror, that this is just one of many loopholes insurance companies have found. Some insurance companies enforce the “try-and-fail method”. Under this method, a person is forced to use a birth control method, such as,  the pill, whether or not it works for her before they can receive coverage for the ring, patch, IUD or other methods their doctor suggested for them.

Planned Parenthood is an excellent resource to learn more about birth control. If you are a college student, make an appointment with your wellness center to learn more about different birth control options and make an informed choice about what’s right for your body. If you would like birth control to be mailed to you (with a goody bag and possibly free with insurance and as low as $3.99 without!) visit Pill Club, you don’t even have to meet with a doctor in person, it’s super easy and accessible. 

It is important we acknowledge that age and financial factors keep birth control out of the hands of people who need them and fight this injustice. Legally your insurance company must pay for this important drug, know your rights and fight for them.