Students on the pill cope with price hike

UH Health Center staff said they are trying their best to accommodate patients, but students are worried about how they are going to afford birth control since prices more than tripled in June.

Concerns among students, who weren’t at the University during the summer, are especially high because they were unaware of the price hike to $35 from $10.

"Students want to know why. They want explanations," Chief Pharmacist Kizzy Steward-Judie said. "I tell them that it’s through no choice of our own; it’s through government legislation that stopped the purchase of birth control at nominal prices – that’s what allowed us to sell it at the low costs in the past."

The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 mandated health centers to purchase birth control at market price instead of at a discounted price, according to the White House’s Web site.

The purpose of the act was to reduce the spending growth of Medicare and Medicaid programs by cutting taxes. Once taxes were cut, pharmaceutical companies could no longer offer discounted prices to colleges, according to the White House’s Web site.

Though the price increase was effective in January, the Health Center had ordered extra supplies while they were still at discounted prices and continued offering them to students. When those supplies ran out, the new prices went into effect during June, Chief Nurse Laura Moore said in a previous interview with The Daily Cougar.

"It prohibits us from being able to obtain birth control pills from companies at discounted prices. In turn, we have to pay a higher price, and of course, pass that on to the students," Steward-Judie said.

The act reduces the Health Center’s ability to help students because people will not be able to afford birth control, Natashia Comeaux, human development and family studies senior, said.

Generics are available at the Health Center as alternatives to the name brand contraceptives and many students have opted to purchase those instead.

The Health Center’s staff encourages students to buy the generic equivalents to the brand name products if cost is a concern because they are just as effective.

For generic brand birth control, students with student insurance pay $15 while other students pay full-price at $25. For brand-name contraceptives, students with insurance pay $25 while regular price ranges from $35 to $60 for other students.

"A lot of the birth control pills that were priced from $10 and now to $35 don’t move as quickly anymore," Steward-Judie said. "As a result, a lot of students have decided to go to alternative birth control pills."

Although some students continue to purchase birth control, they are now buying in smaller doses instead of an entire year supply, she said.

"Students are purchasing what they can afford. In the past, students would try to stock up but obviously they can’t afford to do that now," Steward-Judie said.

Business management senior Aisha Ghani, who purchases her birth control for $50 at CVS, said she does not agree with the price increase and understands why students would be upset.

"If the price of my birth control doubled, I would definitely not take it, and I’m sure many other people would not either," Ghani said.

Ghani’s twin sister Mariam Ghani, a business management senior, also uses contraceptives and said the price increase will create more pregnancies.

"It is more of a hassle for students that are sexually active, and (it) increases their chances of getting pregnant – meaning more abortions," she said.

Both sisters said increased prices will discourage people from using birth control.

"Thirty-five dollars is a lot for people to be spending with so many other expenses," Ghani said.

The steep price increase will have some students choosing between buying birth control pills and using other types of contraceptives, Comeaux said.

"It’s back to condoms, and that’s not very effective," she said. "It makes it harder. It’s already expensive enough to get them. Now it’s back to square one."

Male students are also concerned, biology freshman Omar Ibrahim said.

"If students are sexually active and cannot afford birth control, one slip up could land them (with) another mouth to feed," he said.

The Health Center participated in a survey with the American College of Health Association with the hopes that university health centers would be eligible to purchase contraceptives at discounted prices again. However, all universities were denied their request.

Nurse Practitioner Virginia Miller said she is empathetic toward faculty members and students who are affected by the price increase.

"Because of the 2005 Deficit Reduction Act, we have a whole bunch of women who are being penalized," Miller said.

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