Paying cash for birth control pills? They could run you $9 to $112

cost of birth control pills

Summary: Paying out-of-pocket for birth control pills isn’t uncommon. Maybe you’re uninsured, or your plan is “grandfathered.” Maybe you buy a pill that’s not covered on your insurance company’s list of preferred or approved drugs. Or maybe you work for Hobby Lobby or one of the nearly 80 other companies likely to opt-out of the Affordable Care Act contraception mandate following Monday’s Supreme Court ruling. Regardless of the reason, we’ve collected  some tips for price-shopping birth control pills.

 

 


The Hobby Lobby case brought renewed attention to cash prices of birth-control pills, but there are many other reasons to price-shop for birth control pills and other medications.

This post we wrote a bit ago has a lot of information about how much birth control pills cost. These are prices collected from our 2013 survey of pharmacies, links to great information about different kinds of birth-control pills (what’s a tricyclic? why do different companies make pills that sound the same?).

For prices, you can check out this interactive map that we made in partnership with New York’s award-winning radio show, WNYC:

WNYC Birth Control Screenshot

 

Those who are shopping for medications often find interesting information at this link on our site, which is a general collection of prescription resources.

  • One site is goodrx.com, which is a search tool for medications. It’s got a lot of good information, but we notice that — as of this writing — they have a number of coupon offers. A quick comparison of prices that we know suggests that cash prices can be lower than these coupon prices.
  • Also, Costco, the big box retailer, has rock-bottom-low prices on medications, including birth-control pills. They are never listed on goodrx.com. You don’t have to be a member of Costco to use the pharmacy.
  • We have two or three thoughtful blog posts about how to think about buying medications. There’s this one about sudden price increases, and also this one about what pharmacies pay for their medications, which can be a great shopping tool.
  • And, if you’re thinking that generics are always better, think again. Here’s a very smart piece by our friend Dr. Leslie Ramirez of leslieslist.org writing about why generics aren’t always such a great deal.

In short: prices for medications can vary widely if you’re paying cash. They can change from store to store, or from week to week inside a given store.

Insured people notice that co-pay prices can also change, often randomly. The takeaway: It pays to shop around.

Not sure your insurance company should pay for your pills? Gretchen Borchelt of the National Women’s Law Center wrote this piece, which we saw on Bedsider: “Plans must cover all FDA-approved birth control methods with no out-of-pocket expense. That includes implantsIUDsthe shotthe pillthe patchthe ringdiaphragmscervical caps, and sterilization procedures. (Birth control you can buy without a prescription probably won’t be covered under this law.)

“There are many kinds of pills, and many health insurance companies cover only some of them, so which pills are covered without co-pay will vary by plan…. At the National Women’s Law Center, we hear from women whose plans are only covering the pill, but not the ring or the patch. Other women have been told that only generic brands are covered…. Health plans have been given some leeway to determine what is covered, but they should not be able to stop you from getting the birth control that is right for you.

“The bottom line is that you have to call your insurance plan to find out whether your particular birth control is covered without out-of-pocket expenses. Here’s a guide to what to ask the human you eventually get on the phone, and what their answers mean for you.”