A change in the Medicaid rules under the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 has increased the price of birth control pills and other prescription drugs at college health centers and many clinics serving low-income women nationwide. The change, which went into effect January 1, 2007, has only been felt by students and low-income women recently because many clinics and campus health centers were able to stockpile a few months’ supply of birth control pills at the previously discounted rate.
Pharmaceuticals had been able to offer a steep discount on prescription drugs, including birth control pills, to some health care providers such as college health centers and clinics serving low-income women for the past 20 years under the previous Medicaid rules. This allowed college health centers and many independent clinics serving low-income women to provide birth control at a substantial discount.
However, under the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, having discounts increases the money companies must pay to participate in Medicaid. As a result, pharmaceuticals are no longer offering discounts to campus health centers and many clinics serving low-income women, and prices for birth control pills are soaring. Some 39 percent of women in college use birth control pills, according to the American College Health Association (ACHA), not only for contraception but also for health conditions such as endometriosis.
ACHA has sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services urging that the rule change be amended to allow college health centers to once again receive birth control at a nominal price. “Many students simply cannot afford increases in the costs of their contraceptive drugs in the face of sharp increases in the cost of their education,” ACHA’s letter said.