packet of birth control pills with one missing

(Updated 2022) Here at ClearHealthCosts, we do a lot of thinking about the price tag that comes along with health care. For women, birth control is a big part of that.

About 37.2 million women between the ages of 15 and 44 practice some kind of contraception, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Around 28 percent them, or 10.7 million women, are on the pill.

So we got curious—what are women paying for those pills? That’s why we started our legacy project in partnership with WNYC, the Price of Birth Control Map, that crowdsourced the price of birth control pills.

The prices can vary a lot: $9 or $63? $68 or $184? How about $1.92? Here’s a post with a lot of birth control pill pricing information.

There’s a lot of interest in this topic these days. On Aug. 1, 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services approved a recommendation from  the Institute of Medicine, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, saying all insurers should  cover contraceptives for women free, as one of several preventive services under the new health care law. That recommendation is to become standard practice–but not until 2013. It will not affect uninsured women.

We dug around, and identified some of the top-selling oral contraceptives. Then we looked at the out-of-pocket cost for a one-month supply. The results—which are still admittedly anecdotal—surprised us. The price of your pill might just depend on the block on which you choose to buy it.

Here are some of the takeaways: Newer drugs like Yaz and its generics are expensive. But independent pharmacies tended to charge less than the chain pharmacies in the same neighborhood for brand name contraceptives—a $5 or $10 savings. The price of Ortho Tri-Cyclen Lo also varied, as did the cost of more established Ortho generics.

Places like Rite Aid often have pharmacy cards, which can offer up to a 20 percent discount on brand name drugs. That could even things out, especially over the long term. The Costco in New Rochelle, N.Y., where a month supply of Yaz went for $80.78, was the clear steal in our little survey. Of course, you have to be a Costco member. Membership was $50 a year in 2011, which would add $4.17 monthly to that price tag.

Here’s our page with information about saving money on prescriptions.

Questions, suggestions, more info? E-mail us: info [at] clearhealthcosts [dot] com. Twitter #priceofbc, @chcosts.