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Los Angeles Times: Measures Calling for OTC Birth Control Must Ensure Affordability

Los Angeles Times: Measures Calling for OTC Birth Control Must Ensure Affordability

June 16, 2015 — Efforts that aim to "make it easier for some oral contraceptives ... to be sold over the counter" might "[t]heoretically ... guarantee the most accessibility" to contraception, "but not if women are stuck buying it without [the] benefit of insurance," a Los Angeles Times editorial states.

The editorial describes a measure (S 1438) that "would incentivize drug companies to apply to [FDA] for permission to make their prescription contraceptives available over the counter" and repeal the Affordable Care Act's (PL 111-148) ban on the use of flexible spending accounts for non-prescription drugs.

"All that sounds great," but "[t]here's just one big problem," the editorial states. It explains that while the ACA requires insurers to cover FDA-approved prescription contraceptives, "[t]here is no such requirement for over-the-counter medications." As a result, "[m]any women -- if not all -- would find themselves paying out of pocket for contraception" that had been available at no cost under the ACA, the editorial states.

The editorial notes that groups such as the Planned Parenthood Action Fund and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists -- both of whom oppose the bill "have pointed out that birth control isn't really accessible unless it's affordable." According to the editorial, oral contraceptives can cost up to $600 annually for someone who is uninsured. Further, the measure "would bar anyone younger than 18 from purchasing the pills over the counter," the editorial adds.

According to the editorial, "[t]he better alternative is [S 1532]," which "calls for the continuation of complete insurance coverage of any oral contraceptive after it goes from prescription to over the counter." Moreover, the editorial notes that the bill "would not set an age requirement for purchase."

The editorial states, "If the FDA approves making oral contraceptives available over the counter, Congress should continue to require insurers to cover its cost" (Los Angeles Times, 6/14).