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Whether you have health insurance or not, paying for various forms of birth control can prove to be an expensive proposition.
Nowadays, as a result of the Affordable Care Act, many insurance plans cover all conventional forms of birth control at no cost to patients. While the options have been expanded in recent years, keep in mind that some employer plans are exempt from covering birth control.
While various free forms of birth control may be available, that doesn’t mean that they are always easy to find. Listed below are seven things to consider when choosing a form of birth control that works well for you, your budget, and your lifestyle.
1. Choose a doctor who understands your needs.
For many conventional forms of birth control, you’ll need a prescription. If you have health insurance and a primary care doctor, this can be pretty straightforward. Set up a time to meet with your doctor, have an exam, and (if appropriate) request a prescription. If you have a local pharmacy you prefer, your doctor will likely call in the order on your behalf.
If you don’t have a primary care doctor or are not covered by insurance, this process might be a bit trickier. You might search for insurance alternatives that allow telehealth visits and some prescription coverage at a reasonably low rate. You could also look into the advantages of not being tied to a specific provider, which frees you up to shop around for the best deal.
2. Buy online.
If you don’t have a primary care doctor and only need birth control, you still have options. You could purchase your birth control online and skip the in-person visit altogether. While you’re still required to have a prescription, it’s significantly easier to acquire for those without insurance or a primary doctor. With many online services, you’ll need to complete some form of evaluation. Depending on your situation, you may need to set up a follow-up chat.
Since the entire process is handled online, it tends to move along at a faster pace. Some services, such as Nurx, even provide an option to contact a medical professional whenever it’s most convenient for you. You’re likely to save money, too. Online service providers can generally provide you with conventional forms of birth control for free assuming you have insurance and for an affordable out-of-pocket price if not. Buying online is often an excellent option for those who use one of the more common birth control brands.
3. Take full advantage of prescription coupons.
Not all forms of birth control work for everyone. For example, many people need to be careful about which form of birth control they take due to adverse side effects. Many who find themselves in this position end up paying premium prices even though more affordable options are available. If you fall into this category, there are still ways to save money on birth control.
Consider taking advantage of prescription coupons offered by services such as GoodRx or SingleCare. Many pharmacies accept these coupons. Some even recommend them to patients, so don’t be reluctant to ask your pharmacist for suggestions. Coupon services are typically offered for free, although some also have paid memberships that provide deeper discounts.
4. Be quick to ask about generic options.
When money is tight, you can always look into going the generic route. Generic prescriptions work for many, but talk to your doctor before switching from one form of birth control to another. If you get the OK, switching to generic birth control could save you a lot of money.
Generics should be the same formulation as the name brand and also tend to be covered by many insurance plans. That means you can get them at little to no cost. If you are uninsured, generic options are still likely to provide a cheaper route. Ask your pharmacist if they’ll do a price comparison for you. If there’s a generic option available, they may even switch your prescription out for you, resulting in immediate savings.
5. Check into local free clinics.
Another way to save on birth control is by taking advantage of free clinics. This may be a 340B clinic or a community health center. Free community clinics typically offer steeply discounted rates for doctor visits and access to affordable prescriptions. Take a look at what’s available in your area and ask what forms of care you might qualify for.
Having a tight budget doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do everything you can to take adequate care of your health. Often enough, these clinics will offer payment scales based on income so you’ll want to be prepared to provide that information. It can also help to seek out clinics that specialize in women’s health or sexual health. These are most likely to offer free or reduced-cost birth control.
6. Shop around for an insurance plan that fits you.
As you look for the right place to provide your prescription and birth control, look for the right insurance plan, too. Today, there are many more options than many realize. You don’t have to use the insurance your employer provides. You may find something that suits your needs better.
Many insurance providers offer multiple options. You may find one in your price range that provides better coverage for your birth control. Taking a look at what’s available on the marketplace may also help you save. You might also explore medical plans that bundle prescription coverage and access to doctors. It’s not quite traditional healthcare insurance, but it can still provide access to affordable birth control.
7. Investigate discount programs.
Larger pharmacy chains often offer discounts. Patients who use those pharmacies should check out what’s available. You might have to pay a small membership fee, or it might be free. It typically depends on where you are and what pharmacy you use.
For example, Walgreens has a program that offers a discount in exchange for a membership fee. CVS offers a free consultation with a pharmacist to help you find the most affordable options for your prescriptions, including birth control.
How you go about finding birth control that works for you is an intensely personal matter. Just be aware that there are many options available, and you may need to ask some questions to find the best one for you. Ultimately, the goal is to get you the birth control you need at a price you can afford.