On Friday the New Mexico Pharmacy Association established a new policy that allows pharmacists to write prescriptions for hormonal birth control. Pharmacists can now complete a training program and approval process developed by New Mexico physicians, nurses, and pharmacists in order to prescribe these contraceptives. As a result of this policy, women no longer need an appointment with a physician to receive a prescription. They only have to visit a pharmacy, talk to the trained pharmacist, and can receive such a prescription immediately.
For many women in rural communities, this policy increases their access to birth control because transportation to physicians’ offices becomes less of a barrier. In addition, there is a shortage of healthcare providers in many areas of New Mexico, and some patients have to wait 3 to 6 months to see a primary care physician and must wait even longer to see more specialized physicians.
Dale Tiller, Executive Director of the New Mexico Pharmacists Association, said that this shortage “has led to higher rates of unintended pregnancies.” He expects that some of these pharmacist-issued prescriptions will be covered by health insurance, depending on specific health plans. New Mexico was one of the states to participate in the Affordable Care Act Medicaid expansion, and more than forty percent of low-income adults and children are currently covered by Medicaid.
Lauren Thaxton, M.D., M.B.A. from the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics at the University of New Mexico helped develop the training program and approval process. She stated, “A robust body of research has proven pharmacist provision of contraception is patient-centered, safe, and effective. This service will enhance collaboration and build a stronger infrastructure of providers to meet our patients’ needs in reproductive health.”
Under the Trump Administration, access to contraception has been threatened by President Trump’s proposed budget and potential policies. The proposed budget prohibits Planned Parenthood, one of the largest providers of birth control in the country, from receiving funds through Medicaid or any other program funded through Congress’s annual Labor-HHS appropriations bill. Therefore, Planned Parenthood would be barred from receiving Title X family planning funds. As a result, millions of women, students, and transgender individuals would lose access to reproductive healthcare, including birth control, cancer screenings, and STD counseling and treatment.
In addition, a rule allegedly drafted by the Trump Administration would allow employers to avoid the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that health plans provide birth control. This new rule would create a massive religious or moral objection loophole so that employers could bypass the ACA’s mandate simply by stating that it violated their beliefs.
Therefore, many states are now establishing policies and laws to increase women’s access to contraception. For example, Nevada, Colorado, and Washington have passed legislation that requires health plans to offer women twelve months of birth control supplies without a co-pay. Also, Maryland instated a law in April that uses state money to cover any cuts to Planned Parenthood at the federal level.
New Mexico is not the first state to give pharmacists the capacity to prescribe hormonal contraceptives. It joins Oregon, California and Colorado; all three states have also given pharmacists this ability.
Media Sources: Washington Post 6/9/2017; Associated Press 6/11/2017; New Mexico Pharmacy Association 6/8/2017; Feminist Newswire 6/7/2017; The Albuquerque Journal 6/2/2017