As a man, is there any way I can use my health insurance to pay for birth control pills?
November 13, 2005 12:28 PM   Subscribe

I'm about to start my first salaried job, and will therefore have health insurance. My girlfriend has none. We'd like a method of birth control that's safer and more effective than condoms, but neither of us can afford birth control pills out of pocket. As a man, is there any way I can use my health insurance to pay for birth control pills? If not, what are my other options?

Again, this is the first health insurance plan I've had since I was covered by my parents, and I haven't gotten the paperwork yet, so I'm not sure exactly what the terms are -- but in general, is this something that's doable? Alternatively, what are my other options, short of a vasectomy? It galls me that, in this situation, it seems that my ability to take responsibility for our reproductive safety is limited. (Apart from condom use, which in my mind is not a long-term solution.)
posted by tweebiscuit to Health & Fitness (26 answers total)

I doubt it, not unless she's on your plan directly.

You should advise your girlfriend to either check out Planned Parenthood for a lower-cost alternative, or to ask her doctor for a different, generic version of a brand of pill. Although I have insurance, my generic version of pill (Nordette or Levora, I can't remember which is the generic and which is the namebrand) retails at around $20 a month, which you may find affordable.
posted by cajo at 12:33 PM on November 13, 2005

(I'm not a benefits expert)

Another option: You might, thorough your health care plan, be able to set aside money pre-tax for the purchase of medical items. Combine this ability with your girlfriend finding a cheaper generic birth control pill, and it could end up running you even less than cajo's $20/month. I'm sorry that I don't know the process well enough to give you more specific details, but your HR or Benefits admin should be able to help you with this.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 12:44 PM on November 13, 2005

Seconding the Planned Parenthood option.
posted by k8t at 12:48 PM on November 13, 2005

Thirding Planned Parenthood. They charge on a sliding scale based on her income.
posted by anastasiav at 12:58 PM on November 13, 2005

Many companies in the US extend health insurance to domestic partners of the employee.
You will most likely have to go to your HR department, and 'declare' your girl as a domestic partner if they allow it.

I know people where I work that have had multiple domestic partners added to and removed from their insurance.

There will be a time limit as to how often you can do this obviously.
posted by whoda at 1:02 PM on November 13, 2005

(Planned Parenthood sliding scale for NY state.

If either of you is still in school (your profile mentions Bard), check with the student health center too about cheap/free BCPs.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 1:14 PM on November 13, 2005

I second the domestic partnership option. I have a few friends who have done this, but I think that you'll have to go to HR AND to City Hall.
posted by hooray at 1:15 PM on November 13, 2005

Response by poster: No, neither of us is in school anymore. Thanks for the advice everyone! I had no idea that BCPs could be so cheap -- $20 a month is certainly doable. (I had assumed it would be similar to what my own [unrelated] medication would be without insurance -- $200/mo!) We will definitely pay a visit to Planned Parenthood, and I will look into domestic partnership as soon as I get the paperwork. Is it possible to do even if we aren't living together?
posted by tweebiscuit at 1:23 PM on November 13, 2005

Also, if she's under 25, she may be able to be covered under her parent's health plan(s).
posted by filmgeek at 1:30 PM on November 13, 2005

Oh yeah, nowhere near $200 a month. Even brand name BCPs are only like $60 without insurance, I think. Generic out-of-pocket range from $20-$30 and Planned Parenthood is the greatest ever for situations like this. Just remember them: when or if you're making a bit more money, support the chapter that helped you now so that this cycle can continue [ugh, bad pun].
posted by barnone at 1:32 PM on November 13, 2005

I have to say, it came as a total revelation to me that contraceptive pills were so costly - in the UK all contraception is free on the NHS, so you get the pill free of charge. I ended up sending my US friend contraceptive pills in the post as her insurance didn't cover the pill - not an ideal solution but certainly cheap!
posted by kitschbitch at 1:32 PM on November 13, 2005

I will look into domestic partnership as soon as I get the paperwork. Is it possible to do even if we aren't living together?

Nah, you gotta live together, sorry.
posted by JanetLand at 1:33 PM on November 13, 2005

Also on the domestic partner tip (I was about to do this in NYC, but then I left my job that offered d.p. medical coverage, so it all became moot): you need some proof of intertwined finances (a joint checking account is easiest).

Also, what NotMyselfRightNow is talking about is usually called "flex spending". Definitely talk to your HR folks about this. You have nothing to lose, and the best possible outcome is that you can use pre-tax flex dollars to buy your generics.
posted by mkultra at 2:18 PM on November 13, 2005

Another vote for Planned Parenthood and their sliding fee scale. Also try her school. Some health departments do something similar, but that's not as reliable.
posted by dilettante at 2:25 PM on November 13, 2005

There's a site, Smart Woman Rx, that has discounts on a few specific brands (Levlite®, Levlen®, and Tri-Levlen®), once she has a prescription in hand.
posted by xo at 2:37 PM on November 13, 2005

I love that you asked this. (Please pardon the non-answer.)
posted by abbyladybug at 2:39 PM on November 13, 2005

Have her look into an IUD. Planned Parenthood will have to info, and for many women they are the best choice.
posted by what-i-found at 3:09 PM on November 13, 2005

Response by poster: abbyladybug -- Thanks! Why is that, out of curiosity? (And no worries about the non-answer, I got plenty of real ones!)

Ok, so domestic partnership is out -- that's fine, though, looks like Planned Parenthood is the way to go. I'm still frustrated and rather pissed that it seems as though men are unable to use health insurance to take responsibility for contraception (outside of a vasectomy, if that's even covered), but it sounds like it will at least be doable.

Thanks everyone -- if it were kosher, I would have marked ten different best answers in this thread. Thanks!
posted by tweebiscuit at 3:29 PM on November 13, 2005

safer and more effective than condoms

An apology for the non answer, but what leads you to believe that oral contraceptives are safer than condoms?
posted by docgonzo at 4:38 PM on November 13, 2005

If affordability is important to you two, definately look into the IUD, cervical cap and diaphragm. These methods are not pushed by U.S. medical professionals--I think because they have very low profit margins--but each of them is inexpensive, reliable and non-hormonal. A cap or diaphragm costs well under $100, can last years with reasonable care, and the only additional expense is spermicide. More info on barrier methods can be found at the Diaphragms and Caps yahoo group.
posted by Scram at 5:03 PM on November 13, 2005

docgonzo: I don't know about the poster, but for me and my S/O, just wearing the condom is hassle enough. Although, since both of us are alergic to latex, condoms are expensive like us, so b/c is much cheaper.

Also, a side note, my S/O has "the ring" which is a plasticy/rubbery ring that she pops in for three weeks. No more worrying about missed days with the pill, she doesn't have to worry about forgetting to change patches, and I only notice it every once in a while.

If your S/O has worries about remembering to take the pill, I highly recommend it. Also, if you end up feeling it, it only takes a second to take out.

In the midwest, Planned Parenthood sells these for $20 a shot, no insurance necessary.
posted by hatsix at 8:11 PM on November 13, 2005

Yes, go to Planned Parenthood. Yes. Why anyone buys their birth control at a for-profit pharmacy when they have access to a dispensing Planned Parenthood is beyond me. The Planned Parenthood in my (Canadian) city charges $6.00 per month for the pill, no matter your income, no matter your brand.

But I recommend Planned Parenthood as well because they have a wealth of information about all kinds of birth control, and they take the time to help you figure out what is right for you.

Personally, I've recently switched to the non-hormonal IUD, and I am completely satisfied. My favorite features:
- once the doctor puts it in, you can almost forget about it (just check that it's in place once a month) So no chance of forgetting it, no need to interrupt the action for it, no effect on the feeling, no worries about slipping or breakage.
- Because I chose the non-hormonal one, I don't get any of the nasty side effects that I experienced with the pill.
- I can stop it at anytime if side effects bother me, or if I decide I'm ready to conceive.
- It's effective for three years.
- It only cost me $60.00 - for three years of birth control. As my doc put it, "it's the best value in birth control".

Please remember, every woman has different experiences with birth control, so what is perfect for me, might not work for you or your girlfriend. But I do encourage women to explore all their options with a knowledgable professional. Now that I've found the method that works for me, I wish I'd considered it years sooner.

PS - Thank you to the women of MeFi in previous threads for talking about how much they love thier IUDs. Previous to that, I'd never really considered it!
posted by raedyn at 7:25 AM on November 14, 2005

Using condoms with a spermicide greatly increases their effectiveness. I'm talking about adding a spermicide such as jelly; I haven't read anything about condoms that are packaged with a spermicidal coating.

This is a good thing to do between now and whenever you start using something else, like an IUD.
posted by wryly at 1:14 PM on November 14, 2005

My girlfriend has none.

Your girlfriend should look into at least a high-deductible health insurance plan. If she's young and healthy, that probably won't cost that much; it will cover the low probability, high-cost occurrences that go beyond what your credit cards and parents/friends might be able or willing to do.

(And no, it won't help on birth control, but the lack of coverage for that is a symptom of a larger problem.)
posted by WestCoaster at 1:35 PM on November 14, 2005

Yes, go to Planned Parenthood. Yes. Why anyone buys their birth control at a for-profit pharmacy when they have access to a dispensing Planned Parenthood is beyond me. The Planned Parenthood in my (Canadian) city charges $6.00 per month for the pill, no matter your income, no matter your brand.

For me, I would rather leave those resources in the hands of people who need them far more than I do. Would I love to pay for cheap birth control pills? Yes. Can I afford what I pay now? (Mine is $10 a month with insurance) Absolutely.
posted by cajo at 5:40 PM on November 14, 2005

If you can swing it, the Nuva Ring rocks.
posted by rbs at 11:16 PM on December 18, 2005

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