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Bill Introduced to Lower Campus Birth Control Prices

A new bill introduced in the U.S. Congress this week would reduce the cost of birth control for college students and low-income women nationwide. Because of an error in a previous bill approved by Congress, the prices for birth control this fall quadrupled for female college students who purchase it from college clinics.

For decades drug companies made it possible for college health clinics to purchase birth control at low prices in order to pass along the savings to college students and low-income women who rely on them.

In 2005, however, Congress inadvertently passed a provision under the Deficit Reduction Act, preventing all college clinics, hundreds of safety-net health care providers, Medicaid beneficiaries and Planned Parenthood offices from purchasing birth control from drug companies at a discounted rate.

The new proposal sponsored by Rep. Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y., would reverse the error and again allow pharmaceutical companies to offer college clinics discounts with no cost to taxpayers.

“A bureaucratic mistake should not stand in the way of protecting the health and safety of hard-working women,” Crowley said.

This fall female students returned to campus to discover that the birth control that previously cost them that previously cost them $5 or $10 for a monthly supply now cost $40 or $50 per pack, making it far more difficult to afford.

Colleges such as the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston, which previously offered the contraceptive for free, simply stopped making birth control available to their students.

Crowley’s bill, the Prevention Through Affordable Access Act, already has bi-partisan support and little opposition. Co-authors of the bill included Rep. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., Rep. Jim Ramstad, R-Minn., Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, and Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.

While there is no set timetable for the bill, Crowley hopes it will come to vote sometime this year and go into effect immediately.

“If Congress does not fix this problem, the cost of contraceptives will continue to rise, unintended pregnancies — especially on college —will continue to rise, and more abortions will be the result,” said Ryan of Ohio.

Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, applauded Crowley’s efforts saying, “The bill is win-win. Access to affordable birth control is something Democrats and Republicans do agree on. It is mainstream, prevention, pro-women’s health legislation.”

–Michelle J. Nealy

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