Student Health to Offer Free Emergency Contraception

Adiel Kaplan, Staff Writer

Student Health Services will offer free emergency contraception to students starting Oct. 15 as part of its compliance with the Affordable Care Act.

Emergency contraception in the form of the morning after pill has previously been available through Student Health at reduced cost. According to the Sexual Information Center, Student Health has offered the morning after pill for $25 in the past, while CVS sells it for $50. This will be the first time Student Health will be offering the pills free of charge.

The changes are being made in response to sections of the Affordable Care Act, which went into effect on Aug. 1, that require a variety of women’s health services to be provided free of charge.

“Because of the Affordable Care Act … we can no longer charge for either the emergency contraception or birth control pills, so we had to make some adjustments,” said Marilyn Hamel, nurse practitioner and coordinator of Student Health.

Student Health’s pharmacy is currently being updated to meet the Affordable Care Act regulations. As a result, the availability of certain prescriptions usually available for purchase has been limited this semester. This includes emergency contraception and birth control.

Currently, when students come into the office asking for emergency contraception, Student Health gives them a prescription which they can then take to CVS or another pharmacy to get filled. However, emergency contraception is also sold over the counter at CVS.

“It is something that we are asked about a lot. A lot of students want and need emergency contraception,” said Kira Cohen, College senior and SIC staffer. “Where to find emergency contraception and questions about it are some of the most common questions that we get asked during office hours.”

To get emergency contraception at Student Health, a student must call the office within 72 hours of intercourse to set up an appointment within the proper window of time. During the appointment, students take a pregnancy test and pills are prescribed or, starting Oct. 15, dispensed free of charge.

Since the start of the semester, there has been some confusion over the availability of emergency contraception on campus. Different offices have offered conflicting information on whether students could get pills or just a prescription at Student Health. The limited availability for the last month and a half has been in preparation for making the prescriptions more accessible.

“We have been exploring what would be needed to actually supply emergency contraception at no cost, saving students the step of going to the local pharmacy and the expense,” said Dean of Students Eric Estes in an e-mail to the Review.

According to Estes, Student Health is also looking into making other prescriptions available to students free of charge based on the new regulations.

Birth control pills will no longer be sold through Student Health. Previously available for purchase there, the pills are now given out only as a prescription to get filled at a local pharmacy. Student Health is using the remaining birth control pills left over from last year as trial packs for students new to birth control.

With the new regulations of the Affordable Care Act, prices for some of the services at Student Health have changed based on whether a student is on the College’s insurance plan or their parents’. Estes and Student Health are working on making these services equally accessible to the entire student body.

“Rather than being too hasty and jumping in, we’re making sure we’re doing the right thing,” said Hamel. “We’re looking at how we can best provide health services that are cost effective for the student and for the parent because many of the students are on their parents’ policies.”