Rep. Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y., introduced last Thursday new legislation that aims to significantly lower the cost of birth control on college campuses nationwide, including at AU.
“If we get those discounted birth control pills, that discounted pricing again, we will pass that [savings] on to students,” said Dan Bruey, director of the Student Health Center.
The bipartisan “Prevention Through Affordable Access Act” will amend the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, which prevented on-campus student health clinics from purchasing birth control directly from drug companies at significantly lower prices, according to a news release from Crowley’s office.
The new legislation asks Congress to amend Medicare pricing restrictions to make these low-cost contraceptives more available to students. Crowley proposed the bill with two other Democrats - Reps. Adam Schiff, Calif., and Tim Ryan, Ohio, as well as with two Republicans - Reps. Jim Ramstad, Minn., and Mark Kirk, Ill.
“The fact that you see these two Republicans have signed on to this bill shows there is wide support,” said Rohit Mahajan, Crowley’s press secretary.
The bill already has more than 100 Democratic and Republican co-sponsors and continues to gain support, Mahajan said.
“It’s a no-brainer,” said Mahajan. “[The bill] won’t cost the taxpayers any money. This is focusing on prevention.”
Women’s Initiative is happy legislators are concerned about young women’s access to reproductive health care, said Vanessa Mueller, director of Women’s Initiative.
“Bringing down the costs of these drugs will allow a lot more women to make choices about what types of birth control is right for them without worrying about how they are going to pay for it,” she said in an e-mail.
Low-cost contraceptives are important to have available on college campuses because students tend to have less money and a larger need for the drugs, said Emily Groffman, a sophomore in the Kogod School of Business and the School of International Service.
“That’s where it’s needed the most,” she said.
Since 2005, the cost of birth control drugs on campuses nationwide has increased on average from $5 to $50, according to the news release.
Bruey said his office decided it could sustain a minimal price increase and decided to absorb the brunt of the financial backlash after the 2005 legislation caused the price increase.
There are approximately 6,000 students who use the health center each year, accounting for 15,000 patient visits, according to Bruey.
About 10 percent of students who go to the health center obtain their birth control at the Student Health Center. This percentage does not include the number of women who received prescriptions for birth control to be filled at local pharmacies, Bruey said in an e-mail.
Before Congress passed the Deficit Reduction Act in 2005, the cost for brand-name birth control - Cyclessa, Desogen and NuvaRing - was $15, according to data provided by Bruey. But once the Student Health Center was no longer allowed to buy directly from drug companies, that price increased. As of June 1, the cost for birth control increased to the following: Cyclessa and Desogen to $25 and NuvaRing to $35.
The Student Health Center also started offering generic drugs after the price increase, which it had not done previously, Bruey said.
“We wanted to offer a less expensive option,” he said.
As of June 1, the price for generics, including Cesia (Cyclessa generic), Previ Fem (Ortho Cyclin generic) and Solia (Desogen generic), was $15.
“We didn’t want to pass [the cost] on to the students,” Bruey said.
The price increase has caused some student health centers to stop offering prescription birth control altogwether, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported.
Whether a student obtains birth control through an insurance company or buys it directly from the Student Health Center would influence her opinion on the new legislation, said Lilly Dymond, a senior in the School of International Service.
She said she chose to buy her contraceptives through the Student Health Center to avoid going through her parents’ insurance, but that buying contraception from the health center was more expensive.
“If the quality will be the same, why not?” Dymond said of paying more for birth control. “I definitely wouldn’t sacrifice quality in something like birth control.”