Is free birth control preventive medicine?

By Zaneta Lowe  - bio | email | Twitter

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - "I think it's a great idea for women who actually need birth control."

Tara Lindsey is talking about free birth control.

A panel is meeting this week that will eventually make recommendations to the government on what types of preventive care for women should be covered at no cost to the patient under the new health care plan.

Amanda Thomas is an unmarried student.  She says, "You know myself, I'm a born again Christian, so I actually don't have to worry about getting free birth control, but I can understand like, how it would make life easier if women didn't have to go and worry about the monthly cost of the pharmacy."

The ConsumerWatch Team has been researching this very issue, and what appears to be a rise in the cost of birth control in general.

"They go to the drug store and then they call you back and say, did you know this costs $80, or did you know this medication cost $120," says Columbus gynecologist Karen Stuart, M.D. of Womencare, P.C.

Stuart says her office has gotten complaints from patients about price spikes for more than a year now.

Even with insurance, experts say co-pays for contraceptives can range from $15 to $50 a month.

If you're paying cash, Dr. Stuart says, "They range anywhere from $25-$65 for birth control pills down to $7 for an intrauterine device."

"You pay anywhere from $900 to $1100 for an IUD to be inserted."

However, Dr. Stuart says long term contraceptives like IUDs can actually be cost effective because they last for five to ten years.

A recent Planned Parenthood survey reveals 71% of all voters say prescription birth control should be included as preventive health care services and covered without any out-of-pocket costs.

The question on Capitol Hill though, is birth control preventive medicine?

Many medical and public health experts say yes, but in comments filed with the Department of Health and Human Services, US Catholic Bishops say pregnancy is a healthy condition, not an illness.

As that debate continues, Dr.Stuart says women have to understand, the monthly cost of birth control may seem pricey, but the alternative, "Obviously, it's more costly to do nothing and take a chance."

Tuesday's meeting marks the beginning of this conversation. Health and Human Services has until next August to make its decision.

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