Women who come to UHS in search of emergency contraception will find that the Yale Health Plan no longer provides the drug for free.
The FDA approved emergency contraception — also called Plan B or the “morning-after pill” — for over-the-counter sale in August 2006, and because the Yale Health Plan only provides coverage for prescription medications, EC is no longer included in the pharmacy benefit. Although University Health Services officials said the new over-the-counter availability of Plan B means increased access for Yale women, students expressed concern that charging $28 for the pill would make it more difficult for students to obtain the contraceptive.
Also, for students who need to buy EC from the Yale Pharmacy after-hours, the charge must be put on the student’s bursar account.
Reproductive Rights Action League of Yale member Eve Fine ’07 said making students pay for EC adds another burden to an already emotionally taxing experience.
“To me, providing free EC was a way for UHS to empower women at Yale,” she said. “For so long I felt that UHS had a great policy in providing EC for free and that was something that I really took pride in as a student at Yale.”
Columbia University also no longer offers Plan B to students at a discounted price. But Princeton University charges students $13 for a dose of EC, while Harvard University funds over-the-counter Plan B fully.
RALY co-coordinator Becca Levi ’07 said the organization will be working to encourage UHS to make EC free to Yale students again.
“A right that’s not affordable to everyone isn’t a right,” she said. “We’re absolutely going to campaign to make [EC] free again.”
But UHS Director Dr. Paul Genecin said because the Yale Health Plan does not cover any over-the-counter medication, it would be difficult to provide EC for free.
“No health plan can equitably and consistently administer its coverage by making exceptions for certain OTC drugs or other services that are not included in that health plan’s coverage contract,” Genecin said in an e-mail. “The availability of EC as an OTC … was a significant advance in women’s health and reduces rather than increases the stress experienced by American women who find themselves in need of this pharmaceutical.”
Although the FDA approved Plan B for OTC sale in August, many students said they were not aware of the change in UHS’s policy. Levi said her organization found out about the change in January from a student who went to UHS to get emergency contraception and found out she had to pay.
If a student wishes to buy EC from the Yale Pharmacy after-hours, the charge must be put on the student’s bursar account. Although RALY members expressed concern that this policy violates student confidentiality, Genecin said charging bursar accounts is the pharmacy’s protocol with many items, including some prescription medications, and that it is not a violation of student confidentiality.
“Bursar billing does not identify the nature of the purchase,” he said. “Specific health information is not disclosed.”
Although students insisted UHS’s policy makes it more difficult to obtain EC, Alex Cassutt ’10 said her recent experience with buying EC from the Yale Pharmacy was fairly painless.
“I was nervous, but they were really nice about it, which made me feel a lot better,” she said. “It was really simple to get and not very expensive and no one was judgmental.”
Under the FDA’s new policy, those under the age of 18 are still required to get a prescription if they need Plan B.