What Are Your Birth Control Options If You Don’t Have Insurance?

Can you get free birth control without insurance?

One of the major advantages of the Affordable Care Act is its birth control coverage requirement. Health insurance companies are mandated to cover contraception counseling and most birth control methods without cost sharing. That means an insured patient avoids any out-of-pocket costs for the pill and other contraception methods.

However, since the passage of the ACA, some exceptions have been made. Employers who oppose contraception on religious grounds, for example, are exempt from the requirement. Still, the ACA put contraception access into reach for millions of people.

This is terrific for most people who have health insurance of some kind, but it doesn’t help the millions who don’t. For them, the cost of going to a doctor to get a prescription and the cost of the birth control itself may be out of reach. So, what are your options if you’re one of them?

Fortunately, there are some opportunities for uninsured individuals to have access to low- or no-cost birth control. You just need to know where to look.

Telehealth Providers

There’s little doubt that telehealth has made access to a variety of patient care easy and affordable. You can consult with a healthcare provider about online birth control from your laptop or smartphone. Forget scheduling an appointment that’s weeks or months away then spending a generous amount of time in the waiting room.

Once you choose your birth control method with an online provider, your prescription will show up at your door like clockwork. Just make sure you find a provider that will answer any questions you have once you begin your prescription. You can access that ongoing assistance at the touch of a button or screen as well.

Consultations and prescriptions by telehealth providers aren’t free. However, their lower overhead holds down costs for uninsured patients. A birth control consult may cost you $25 for a year’s worth of provider access. However, the average cost of a single in-office visit will take $150 out of your pocket.

The downside? Unfortunately, a handful of states restrict access to telehealth providers. But if you live in one that doesn’t, telehealth is a great option for affordable care and access, even without insurance.

Over-the-Counter Options

Most birth control methods require a prescription, but there are some options that do not. These over-the-counter (OTC) options are usually affordable and easy to access. But there are a few caveats you should consider.

External condoms are probably the least expensive forms of protection you can get, and they provide protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). If you’re using them as contraception, however, be aware of condom efficacy rates. With perfect use, they’re effective 97% of the time. But with typical use, they’re only effective 86% of the time.

The morning-after pill is also available over the counter and may prevent pregnancy from unprotected sex after the fact. But it doesn’t provide protection if you have sex after taking it. This is why it’s recommended for emergency use rather than routine contraception.

You can also buy spermicides and vaginal sponges containing spermicides over the counter. These have lower efficacy rates and, like condoms, require some forethought. Mini pills, which contain only progesterone, may be available OTC soon, although at what price point is yet to be seen. So, while OTC methods are options for the uninsured, they may not be the best ones for ultimate pregnancy protection.

Low-Cost Clinics

Depending on where you live, you may have access to a low-cost or even no-cost clinic. Some offer gynecological care and birth control, which seems ideal if you don’t have health insurance. Unfortunately, availability of these types of clinics is extremely limited.

If you have kept up with the news, low-cost clinics, like Planned Parenthood, have taken massive hits. The Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade discarded federal protections regarding a woman’s right to make choices about her own reproductive care. As a result, many states immediately began limiting funding and access to clinics that provided contraception. That’s been a blow to those who are uninsured and underinsured.

You may be able to schedule prescriber visits for birth control on an income-based sliding scale at a federally qualified health center. These are usually located in medically-underserved areas. If you are a student, your college or university student health clinic may provide low-cost contraception. And don’t forget to ask your local public health department if it can help.

These types of clinics continue to provide free birth control and well-woman examinations that you might need to obtain a prescription. But it’s a fact that what they can offer is easier to deliver in some states than it is in others. Even if your state protects your reproductive rights, you might live very far away from where a clinic is located. The time and money it takes to travel to them can be expensive, but may be worth the trip.

Take Control Even If You’re Uninsured

If you are uninsured, you aren’t alone. Millions of people don’t have employer-sponsored plans, can’t afford individual coverage, and don’t meet their state’s Medicaid income guidelines. So, if you don’t have health insurance, or your plan is exempt from covering birth control, you may feel stuck.

Telehealth, OTC methods, and low-cost clinics are viable options for getting affordable and effective birth control even if you’re uninsured. Now that you know where to look, explore your options. Any of them will be less expensive than the cost of having a baby you might not be ready for.

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