(Updated 2022) Do you buy your birth control overseas?
We have started to gather stories from patients who are un- and under-insured. Oddly enough, we heard more than one about women buying their birth control overseas. Here’s one:
A while back, our friend was prescribed the oral contraceptive Yasmin to help treat a chronic condition. She was abroad around the same time, and got about five months worth of Yasmin in Turkey. She paid around $8. When she ran out, her sister, who worked in a physician’s office, began to send her free samples of Yaz, which is made by Bayer, which also makes Yasmin. After her condition improved, she stopped taking birth control.
When her condition resurfaced, she had health insurance. A specialist prescribed a generic of the birth control pill Ortho Tri-Cyclen, called Trinessa. She tells what happens next:
“My health insurance policy changed with the company I was working for, so to get the generic stuff, I’d have to pay $50 deductible and then $30 for each month supply — meaning to get one month pack, I’d have to fork over $80. I asked her to look up what it would cost to get three months sans health care–and it was a little under $30 per month. So for less than $90, I could get a three month supply. So, even though I had health care, I bought a three month supply out of pocket.”
“By the time that refill expired, I was no longer insured. So I went to see the [doctor] my sister works for, and she wrote me a prescription for 3 more months of Trinessa. Since she was in [another state], I switched to Walgreen’s who introduced me to their prescription plan — which cost me $35, my BC is now $12.50 a month.”
This woman was not the only person we spoke with who looked around, and sometimes abroad, for birth control. Where else do people buy birth-control pills?
“Bangkok,” answered one woman of our acquaintance. She happened to be there and bought a two-year supply at $14 a month. When her supply ran out recently, she was disconsolate. She takes them not for contraception, but for another health reason, as do a number of other women.
A third woman said she’s got a Hong Kong connection: an acquaintance travels there regularly and buys birth-control pills to bring back. South Africa provided a purchasing spot for another friend.
Hearing about this, another friend said: “Yes, I used to live in France, and birth-control pills cost $3 a month. I was shocked when we moved here.”
Are you surprised by any of these stories? Do you have one of your own? If so, we want to hear it. Leave a comment, or e-mail it to: info [at] clearhealthcosts [dot] com.
Jeanne Pinder is the founder and CEO of ClearHealthCosts. She worked at The New York Times for almost 25 years as a reporter, editor and human resources executive, then volunteered for a buyout and founded ClearHealthCosts.
She was previously a fellow at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at the Columbia University School of Journalism. ClearHealthCosts has won grants from the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York; the International Women’s Media Foundation; the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation with KQED public radio in San Francisco and KPCC in Los Angeles; the Lenfest Foundation in Philadelphia for a partnership with The Philadelphia Inquirer; and the New York State Health Foundation for a partnership with WNYC public radio/Gothamist in New York; and other honors.
Her TED talk about fixing health costs has surpassed 2 million views.