Friday, March 23, 2007

We Do Need Some Birth Control

I hope Congress has a real good explanation for this nonsense.

Prices for oral contraceptives, or birth control pills, are doubling and tripling at student health centers, the result of a complex change in the Medicaid rebate law that essentially ends an incentive for drug companies to provide deep discounts to colleges....

The change is the result of a chain reaction started by a 2005 deficit-reduction bill that focused on Medicaid, the main federal health insurance program for the poor. College health officials say they had little idea the bill would affect them.

Before the change, pharmaceutical companies typically sold drugs at deep discounts to a range of health care providers, including colleges. With contraceptives, one motivation was attracting customers who would stay with their products for years.

Now a student who was paying $10 for birth control is now paying $22 a month, which, for those of you keeping track, is more than double what they paid a couple of months ago. It doesn't sound like a lot of money, but when you multiply that out (finds calculator), students are paying $144 a year more than they did last year. I don't know if you remember college, but money isn't flowing as freely as keg beer. $144 is half a textbook. Maybe that money comes out of rent. Maybe it just gets piled on the credit card these girls got offered at orientation. In any case, this most basic and easy of medicines is becoming a luxury.

Not all college girls are taking the pill to avoid pregnancy. Some girls need the pill to ease heavy periods, symptoms of endometriosis, or even for acne control. The pill is not just a contraceptive. Also, not every pill has a generic. When I began my foray into birth control pills out of college (I am the one woman in the history of the world who didn't get laid on a regular basis in college) I tried the generic Ortho. Unfortunately, I broke out like crazy. For a person who hardly ever had acne, it was pretty traumatic. My doctor then had me try Yasmin.

"It's expensive," she said, "but maybe it won't work either."

Of course, Yasmin works like a charm. (Look, ma, no babies!) My pharmacist told me that the likelihood of a generic Yasmin isn't very good for at least another five years. My company's insurance, which gets crappier by the year, charged me $20/month last year, which jumped to $30/month this year. Luckily, I participate in the mail-order program, so it ends up costing me $60 for three months' supply, but it ain't cheap. But I remember that the good thing about the pill is that I don't have cramps that knock me over or long, gross periods.

I just don't understand how there is so much government pork that NBC Nightly News can have a weekly feature describing the myriad wastes of money the federal government allows, but college girls can't have affordable birth control? Come on, Congress. I expect better of you.

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