Student plan improves access to birth control
Published: Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 08:10
The student health insurance plan, used by about 30 percent of Tufts students, has incorporated coverage of birth control without a co-pay in the wake of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
The act’s provision on birth control went into effect nationally on Aug. 1 and for students using Tufts’ student health insurance provider, Aetna Student Health, on Aug. 31.
The policy eliminates the co-pay associated with generic contraceptive pills, NuvaRing, the diaphragm or intrauterine devices (IUD) for students on Aetna Student Health.
Other insurers will adopt the policy on a rolling basis.
“Sometime over the course of this year, your health insurance will be rolling over to follow the guidelines of the Affordable Care Act, and when that happens, you’ll be able to have contraception without a co-pay,” Medical Director of Health Service Margaret Higham said.
While Tufts’ provider took up the policy at the beginning of this semester, students insured through other providers may see the changes on their policies at varying times, according to Senior Director of Health and Wellness Services Michelle Bowdler.
“Plans cycle at different times,” Bowdler said. “We are telling students to call ... their insurance company and find out when the new policy takes effect.”
While it is too early to assess how the policy will affect the number of students who seek prescriptions for birth control and other forms of contraception, Bowdler said she hopes it will lead to better reproductive health on campus.
“The theory behind it is that it will improve health and reduce other collateral costs that are difficult and expensive,” she said.
Members of the Tufts community can also access Plan B, or other emergency contraception, through Health Service in two ways, Bowdler explained.
One option, she said, is over the counter at the Health Service offices on Professors Row.
“If they do that, it’s $14 or $15 and they can do that through a nursing visit,” Bowdler said.
Alternatively, students on Tufts insurance can order their prescription through a pharmacy after seeing a nurse at Health Service and then collect it at the pharmacy for free.
The fee for collecting Plan B over the counter at Health Service is a continuing policy that is a necessary cost for maximizing convenience and privacy for students who do not want to go through a pharmacy to purchase Plan B.
“We want to charge students what it costs us, and the more that we can let students know that we have it, the happier I am,” Bowdler said.
However, Higham said the new policy has lessened the importance of cost as a point of discussion when students consider their birth control options.
“We certainly prescribe lots of contraception, and people will often ask us what’s the least expensive thing we can get,” she said. “It hasn’t changed how we practice ... but it does remove some cost barriers for people, and that’s terrific.”
Without a co-pay, Higham said, people may have more choices than were previously available to them due to higher costs.
“We’re particularly excited for the cost barrier being removed for things like the IUD, which is a really fabulous form of contraception,” she said. “I think this will help make it more readily available to people.”
Bowdler said the removal of barriers to accessing birth control will especially play a role in the choices that people make about their reproductive health while in college.
“Certainly [these choices are] important, especially if we can prevent pregnancy or [sexually transmitted infections],” she said.
Bowdler emphasized that Health Service is an important resource for students with questions about reproductive health.
“We want them to feel comfortable and safe discussing any issues with us,” she said. “We want them to be aware that we offer emergency contraception and that if they have questions about whether they are considering becoming sexually active or if they want to consider the [contraceptive] method that they’re on or make changes, this is something that ... we can help them with.”