Free Birth Control: Everything You Need To Know
The cost and difficulty in obtaining affordable birth control seems like a contradiction when you consider that 50% of pregnancies in the United States each year are unplanned. Or even more contradictory, is that 90% of all abortions each year are due to unintended pregnancy (according to the Brookings Institution).
Contradictory because a lower cost of birth control would reduce unwanted pregnancies and abortions, yet the debate continues on whether or not women should face the high cost burden of contraception on their own.
We’ve compiled this guide on how to get free birth control because every woman should have access to contraception, with or without the ability to pay for it.
Birth Control Methods
It’s important to note that not all birth control methods are available for free – some are only available through select ways. With that said, there is a way to access nearly every brand at a reduced cost, if not for free.
These are the most common methods of birth control, and the ones most likely to find for free:
As you know, the decision to choose any one of these is weighted. Each birth control method affects each woman differently, and some methods are chosen for reasons beyond their protection against unwanted pregnancies.
For instance, some women or teenage girls are prescribed birth control pills to help with hormone imbalances, irregular periods, or conditions such as endometriosis. Others choose the copper IUD to avoid the use of hormones that their bodies respond poorly to.
There are dozens of influences that lead women and doctors to choosing a particular brand or method of birth control, and not having access to it because of cost can pose a real threat to a woman’s health.
If you’ve already chosen a method of birth control, and you’re uninsured or your insurance doesn’t cover what you need, read on.
How to Get Birth Control for Free (with Insurance)
Is birth control free if you have insurance? Not always. If you’ve already discovered this, know that there are methods of getting your birth control for free. Some of them involve knowing how to twist your insurance into paying, while others don’t require insurance at all.
You may need more than one method, or you may need to try multiple to see which works for you.
Generic brands: If you have insurance, generic brands are typically much easier to get for free. As per federal law through the Affordable Care Act, all insurance providers are required to provide at least one free method of birth control unless they are exempt (in which case third-party providers are required to be provided as an alternative).
Call your doctor: Even if your birth control is covered by your insurance, you’re required to have a birth control prescription, which means a co-pay for a visit to the doctor. You can avoid this cost by calling your doctor and asking them to refill your prescription without a visit. Often you’ll find them willing to do so, unless you need a medical evaluation or there is a change in your birth control or your response to it. Your doctor will also be your best advocate for finding the most affordable and effective method for you, and can assist you in getting your birth control at an affordable rate.
Order online: The rising cost of birth control and the difficulty in accessing it has given life to the online market. While it’s always advised that you speak to a doctor directly about your birth control to see how it may affect you, finding free birth control online may be a good option for those having difficulty avoiding co-pays or other fees.
Appeal the copay: If you have insurance, but the cost changes and you can no longer afford it, and there is no generic version – such as the case with Ortho Tri-Cyclen Lo – you should reach out to your insurance provider to appeal. You have this right, especially when there is no generic version.
Contact the National Women’s Law Center: Some women find that their insurance really should be covering their birth control for free, or that they aren’t offering a free generic brand at all. They’re often met with resistance when contacting the insurance provider about this issue. In this case, you can call the National Women’s Law Center to help you appeal.
In any case, talking with your doctor should be your first step. They’ll be able to guide you on which course you should take and if there’s anything they can do first. Your doctor can often make your case much more effectively with insurers.
How to Get Birth Control Without Insurance
Insurance doesn’t guarantee that your birth control will be covered, but without insurance, it appears as though you’re guaranteed to bear the cost of birth control alone – plus the cost of an examination and birth control prescription.
In the United States, there are about 10.5 million women within reproductive age (15-44) that deal with this reality. If you’re among this group, know that there are options for obtaining free birth control pills, implants, and IUDs even without insurance.
Here are a few options:
Brand voucher programs: for the uninsured, or for those whose insurance doesn’t cover a particular brand, you may be able to qualify for a voucher program. Vouchers may reduce or eliminate the cost of contraception. Check on brand websites or ask your doctor for more information.
Medicaid: if you qualify for Medicaid, you can receive many forms of birth control for free (including the IUD). Granted, most brand names may not be available, and generic versions will be more likely to be covered.
Call the health department: your local health department might be able to offer you free or low-cost birth control. Otherwise, they might be able to find and/or enroll you in programs that allow you to get birth control free.
Check local clinics: there are many local clinics that offer free or reduced-cost birth control or have their own programs that help you receive the reproductive care and contraception you need. It’s always good to check clinics within your area.
Family Planning Benefit Plan: the ACA has created certain advantages such as the Family Planning Benefit Plan, which grants states fund for family planning and prevention of unintended pregnancy (birth control).
Insurance: the Affordable Care Act allows you to be on your parent’s insurance at no extra cost until the age of 26. If you are older than 26 or cannot get on your parent’s insurance, consider filling out an application with the Health Insurance Marketplace. Doing so will provide you with insurance options, which you can use to find something affordable that will also cover your birth control.
Switch from short-term to long-term: if you’re using pills and having a hard time affording them each month, consider going on a long-term form of birth control. It may have a higher initial cost but could save you years of payments and give you years without worrying about unwanted pregnancy.
How is Free Birth Control Possible?
How much does birth control cost you each month, three months, a year? With or without insurance, birth control can cost women hundreds of dollars each year (and governments billions).
There are dozens of benefits to making birth control more affordable, and it’s these that state and local governments have made their rulings on. They have recognized that:
- The number of abortions decrease when more women are on birth control.
- 68% of unplanned births in 2010 (all 1.5 million of them) used public insurance programs such as Medicaid to pay for them (according to the Guttmacher Institute).
- Contraception use saves about 19.3 billion dollars a year, whereas lack thereof costs the federal government nearly 5 billion per year, according to the Institute of Medicine.
- Birth control also relieves other health care costs since it is regularly prescribed to help with other medical conditions such as: ovarian cysts, endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, hormone imbalances, anemia, irregular periods, and more.
Currently, the Affordable Care Act is a woman’s strongest defense against birth control costs, requiring insurance companies to provide at least one method of contraception.
Reasons You Might Not be Able to Get Free Birth Control
There are continuously altering factors that contribute to the cost of your birth control and your ability to get it for free. These would be:
- Government changes – either on the state or federal level. Changes to regulations regarding insurance may greatly affect you. If there are any alterations, check with your doctor and/or insurance to see how it will affect you.
- Changes to your insurance – if your insurance plan changes due to regulations, or if you’ve switched plans or birth control, you may see a change in what you pay.
- Religiously exempt companies – some companies are religiously exempt from covering birth control through their insurance provider. In this case, usually a third party provider is brought forward as an alternative option.
If you’re having difficulty affording or getting your birth control for free, talk with your doctor to see what they can do to help.
Where to Get Free Birth Control
Always talk with your doctor first about your birth control options. They’re your best advocate for finding affordable or free birth control. If you’re having trouble with insurance or don’t have insurance, your doctor will guide you on how to continue obtaining contraception.
Any changes in your birth control brand or method should be cleared with your doctor first, as your body may react negatively to changes or particular methods.
If you don’t have a doctor, search your area for a licensed practitioner that understands all your birth control options.
Eastside Gynecology specializes in reproductive health, procedures, and contraceptive methods. Call for more information or to make an appointment today.