Thanks for the free birth control, Uncle Sam

1 08 2012

Today, the section of the Affordable Care Act that provides free preventative care for women went into affect. As in: Ladies, our birth control pills are now free!

How great is this? A pharmacist once tried to charge me $45/month ($540/year) for birth control pills because my insurance plan changed and the co-pay suddenly increased. I had been paying about $12/month ($144/year).

This pissed me off. Practically everything surrounding the bureaucracy of healthcare pisses intelligent people off.

I am a healthy, rich, white lady with great health insurance, but the shit that goes down during a typical check-up always leaves me ranting for days afterwards. And I am not alone.

Let me explain the hoops you have to jump through to have your pills covered by insurance. You need to have an annual exam (which can run over $100 with insurance, not counting any lab work you have done) in order for insurance to pay for your pills (most insurance requires you to pay a co-pay). Insurance will only pay for one exam every year, so you have to make sure you schedule your appointment at least 12 months and one day after your last exam.

The catch is that your practitioner probably only wrote you a prescription for 12 months of the pill. So you have to schedule your appointment in that magical window of time one year past your last exam and before your pills run out. Plus, you have to keep other black out dates in mind: When will you be on your period? What days does your practitioner work? And I hope you don’t have anything else schedule around those days that could interfere with your exam, like a job, scheduled vacation or life in general.

Should you have a health care practitioner who fails you and you go off your regular pills until you get a new prescription (a problem one of my friends had) you could start bleeding randomly. And if you use the pill to prevent pregnancy (that’s right, if you didn’t know, the pill has many, many uses besides pregnancy prevention) good luck with your back-up plan.

WE ARE ALL ON THE PILL. MAKE IT EASIER FOR US TO GET IT.

During one particularly frustrating visit I was stuck wearing a paper gown while being put on hold by my insurance company when I tried calling them on my cell phone mid-doctor’s visit.

A few weeks earlier, the doctor’s office had initially called me to schedule my annual appointment. I doubled checked my own records and with the scheduler to ensure my insurance would cover the visit. I took the morning off of work, sat around for almost an hour in the waiting room because the practitioner was running late, and when I finally got in, got my vital signs checked and put on the standard issue paper gown, another employee stuck her head in the door and told me I should probably call my insurance before they go any further to double check they would pay for my visit.

“Can’t we just call them after?” I asked.

“If we do that, this visit could cost hundreds of dollars. Just call and double check first.”

This is not the conversation I want to have. Especially when I’m feeling stressed out about taking time off work. And while I’m wearing paper clothing.

It’s not like being on the pill is as temporary as being on cold medicine. As stupid as it sounds, you can think of fertility as a chronic disease because a lot of us spend decades taking pills for it.

Pills so expensive I used to clip coupons for them. That’s right, my college newspaper used to run a Planed Parenthood ad that was a buy six packs, get one free ad for birth control.

When I brought the ad into the medical office, the practitioner working there was so enthusiastic about seeing the discount coupon she encouraged me to stock up on them.

This is one of many reasons why I love Planned Parenthood: they understand the cost and hassle of healthcare and try to make it easier with coupons and weekend hours.

Getting back to the Affordable Care Act, I’m glad that the pills are free and that we’re getting a bunch of other stuff for free*, too. (*not really free since I pay taxes, but ya know, it’s more exciting when you think of it as being free). The list of covered services includes well-woman visits, STD testing and a bunch of other stuff that will probably come in handy for most of us*. (*with lady parts).

But since it’s not just the cost of the pills that such a hassle, but getting the prescription for them, too, the government needs to do more.

So I say, thanks for the free pills, Uncle Sam. Now when can I get them over the counter?


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