Oct 5

Deficit Reduction Act Snafu: Keep Birth Control Affordable!

I’d like to take a moment of your Friday to talk about deficit reduction, specifically the Federal Deficit Act of 2005, and how it’s made it difficult to keep college-age and low-income women’s access to health care services, as well as affordable contraception.

So, Deirdra, how does the Federal Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 affect reproductive freedom?

The provisions of the DRA have narrowed the scope of providers who would be eligible to continue to purchase deeply discounted drugs. The bill was intended to remove discounted drug pricing for hospitals that operate for a profit. College clinics were not specifically targeted, and so no one realized they would be affected until afterwards. As a result, brand name prescription prices for campus clinics rose from about the $3 to $10 range per month to the $30 to $50 range.

Most clinics had stockpiles of contraceptives, which allowed them to delay price increases until more recently. However, since January 2007, birth control costs have skyrocketed at university and public health clinics. According to Planned Parenthood’s research, some birth control pill packs have increased in price from $10 to $49 per month at Mississippi State University. Similar increases are soon expected at The University of Mississippi, as well as The University of Southern Mississippi. Nationally, clinics have had to cut staff, hours and services (such as prenatal care, educational programs and even cervical screenings) to try and keep contraceptives affordable for their patients. Unintended pregnancies are on the rise amongst women in their 20s.

The problem is simple: Due to an unintentional error made by Congress, we are facing a national health crisis that affects three million undergraduates and over 850,000 low-income women. Raising a child is hardly cheap, but scores of women are losing their access to reliable birth control because of the DRA’s provisions. When students and low-income families are forced to choose between groceries and contraception, everyone loses.

Fortunately, the solution is also a simple matter: if the Senate clarifies the language of the bill, the changes can be enacted immediately. Some senators have recognized the error and have been working to fix the problem, but the matter would benefit greatly from a huge surge of public support.

Nearly four million women are counting on Congress, and you, to help make birth control affordable.

Ask your senator to fix the birth control pricing problem caused by the Deficit Reduction Act. A small change will protect women’s health, and put birth control back within women’s reach.

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