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Dems urge full coverage of OTC birth control

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Mar 4, 2024
Illustration of a hand holding a packet of birth control pills with dollar bill imagery overlayed

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

Democratic lawmakers are renewing calls for full insurance coverage of the first over-the-counter contraceptive after manufacturer Perrigo announced a suggested retail price of $19.99 a month.

Why it matters: Having a birth control pill available in stores without a prescription should increase access — but that doesn't mean everyone will be able to cover the cost.

The latest: Perrigo said on Monday that its Opill birth control has been shipped to pharmacies and other retailers and is available for pre-order this week. It can also be purchased online.

  • A three-month supply will fetch $49.99 and a six-month supply will be $89.99.
  • Opill should be available on store shelves and online later this month.

A group of Senate Democrats quickly pressed health plans to offer no-cost coverage.

  • "More needs to be done to make sure every American can access and afford the pill over-the-counter," Sens. Patty Murray, Mazie Hirono and Catherine Cortez Masto said in a statement. "A big part of that is making sure that Opill is fully covered by insurers, with no prescription barrier or extra costs."

Zoom in: The lawmakers are specifically pushing the bicameral Affordability is Access Act that would require insurers to fully cover any FDA-approved over-the-counter birth control.

  • The Affordable Care Act already requires that insurers cover at least one approved product within each FDA class of contraceptives.
  • But there's no such requirement for birth control options that are bought over-the-counter without a prescription.
  • At least 12 states and the District of Columbia do require insurers to cover over-the-counter contraceptive options, per KFF.

Reality check: The legislation likely doesn't have much of a chance in this Congress with divided chambers, but it provides another election-year messaging point on reproductive rights.

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