The marketplace for birth-control pills is pretty interesting, and it seems to change by the day.
A woman we know who takes Ortho Tricyclen Lo got this letter not long ago from her insurance company, encouraging her to stop taking the brand-name pill (for which she has a $50-a-month copay) and to instead start taking one of three generics — Tri-Sprintec, Trinessa or Tri-Previfem, for which she would have a $10-a-month copay.
The insurance company helpfully calculated in the letter (page 2 is below)
that she’d save $40 a month, for a total annual savings of $480 a year, if she’d switch.
What they didn’t mention is that if she was on a generic plan with, say, Target, she could pay $4 a month for Trinessa (or $10 for 90 days), not $10 per month — plus whatever her insurance premium turns out to be as a monthly charge.
It’s interesting that the insurance company charges $10 (plus premium) though Target and its big-box competitors with similar plans regard the $4 monthly generic prescription price as a good play competitively. (Wal-Mart, Costco and some chain grocery stores also have similar plans). You can use these plans without insurance, or you can choose this even if you do have insurance; you just need a prescription.
About 75-80 percent of all prescriptions filled in the United States are generics, so that’s a big market.
We’re not an expert in these medications. We do note with interest that the formulations seem to change a lot — and by just a bit — so a pill can be brand-name this month, and generic next month. Or that people tend to use whatever works for them, whether it’ s generic or a brand-name drug.
It can be hard to figure out how much birth-control pills cost. When we were doing our survey, we found prices for Ortho Tricyclen Lo ranged from $92 to $110 without insurance.
Trinessa–not, strictly speaking, a generic of Ortho Tricyclen Lo because the formulation is different–seemed to be one of the most common prescriptions used. On our PriceofBC map, we collected prices ranging from $9 to $50.
If it does the work at $4, we can see why these programs are popular.
How much did you pay? Contribute your pricing info to our PriceofBC map — then tweet us on out to your friends. We’re collecting prices, and you can play at home!
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.