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Senators want insurers to cover over-the-counter birth control

Although birth control pills will be available over-the-counter, unless you live in several states, insurance won't be obligated to cover them.
Senators want insurers to cover over-the-counter birth control
Posted at 1:05 PM, Oct 30, 2023

A group of Senate Democrats sent a letter to the Biden administration on Monday urging officials to require federally regulated insurance companies to make over-the-counter birth control pills covered by insurance. 

Their letter comes after the Food and Drug Administration approved a birth control pill that does not require a prescription earlier this year. Opill was first approved in 1973 to prevent pregnancies but was taken off the market in 2005 due to business reasons.  

Drugmaker Perrigo said it intends to have the drug available over the counter in early 2024.

In total, 48 senators signed the letter. The only two Democrats not on the letter are Sens. Joe Manchin and Jon Ossoff. 

"The availability of safe and effective OTC birth control products has enormous potential to help people overcome significant barriers to consistent contraceptive use, including the many logistical and financial challenges to obtaining a prescription," the senators wrote. "The FDA’s approval of Opill is a milestone; however, for an OTC birth control pill to meet its potential and be truly accessible, federal departments must ensure that it is covered without cost-sharing and without the need for a prescription as a condition of coverage."

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The senators noted that several states, California, Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey, Mexico, New York and Washington, have laws requiring insurers to cover over-the-counter birth control. 

The letter notes that current guidance "allows federally and state-regulated private health plans to require a prescription for OTC contraceptives as a condition of coverage without cost sharing." The senators claim this reduces access to such medicine. 

The FDA said Opill is up to 98% effective when used as directed. The FDA also said using additional forms of birth control, including condoms, helps make the drug more effective. 

The agency said that real-world use, however, means the drug generally has lower effective rates as tablets aren't always taken when directed. 

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