Though not usually the most progressive state in terms of women's health care, Nevada has a proposed birth control bill that would make women's lives so much easier. Currently, someone in need of birth control can only pick up a three-month prescription at a time, but this legislation would allow anyone with a prescription to get a full year's supply at a time. That means fewer trips to the pharmacy; this is great for everyone, but would be especially beneficial for low-income and rural patients.
Even if someone's doctor wrote a prescription for three months' worth of birth control with refills up to a year, the patient could ask the pharmacist to fill that whole year at once. Assembly Bill 249 and Senate Bill 233 (essentially the same bill in each branch of the state legislature) would apply to any type of prescription contraceptive that requires refills.
Having personally used birth control pills for years, I know the struggle of reaching the last week of your three-month prescription and frantically trying to figure out when you can pick up more before your last pack runs out. For low-income women and those who don't live near a pharmacy, this can be an even bigger issue.
For starters, if someone's city doesn't have great public transportation and they don't have a car, getting to the pharmacy could pose a real challenge. And if they can't afford that public transportation, their options are even more limited. Plus, for women working hourly jobs, taking off work to get to the pharmacy before it closes means losing money they desperately need, if they're able to take off at all. And if they only have access to unreliable transportation, they may need half a day to get to the pharmacy and back.
Toby Frescholtz, MD, an Ob/Gyn in Nevada, wrote an op-ed for The Reno Gazette-Journal praising Assembly Bill 249 and explaining why her patients should be allowed to pick up a 12-month supply of birth control at once. "Getting in the car and driving to a local pharmacy is a luxury many of us take for granted, but for some patients, transportation alone can be a barrier — and the 'local' pharmacy can sometimes be hours away," she wrote.
When women can't refill their birth control prescriptions in time, they face the risk of unintended pregnancies while lacking their usual contraception. In fact, low-income women in one study who received 12 months of birth control pills had 30% fewer unintended pregnancies and 46% fewer abortions than low-income women who received one to three months, according to the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
"I have witnessed how accessible contraception can make the difference between a young woman finishing her studies and getting a good paying job, or falling into a never-ending cycle of poverty," Dr. Frescholtz wrote.
The bills — backed by NARAL Pro-Choice America — also aim to reinforce the Affordable Care Act's guarantee that insurance plans cover birth control without a co-pay, which will be beneficial if future healthcare reforms get rid of that protection. The law would prohibit businesses from objecting to covering birth control for religious reasons, as well.
While there's an ongoing debate about whether or not birth control should be available over the counter, allowing people to pick up 12-month prescriptions makes it easier to get birth control within the existing system. If this bill passes, Nevada would join a few other states, including California, that already allow the larger pharmacy pickups.
Making birth control accessible is about more than just insurance; it's about eliminating every possible barrier. For many, having to pick up a refill every three months is a huge one.