Community college students are worried about birth control costs

Ensuring access to contraception is an essential part of reproductive health care and autonomy. However, people face barriers to contraception such as lack of knowledge or financial limitations. Previous research has shown that young women don’t know a lot about the full range of available methods. Lack of insurance and cost remain significant barriers to using contraception. While there are publicly funded family planning services and state-based programs available, young adults may not know about these services. 

Various contraceptive methods on a white background

In new research, Bixby members looked at insurance coverage access to free or low-cost birth control, and concerns about contraceptive costs among women in community college in California and Oregon to better understand potential barriers to contraceptive services.

Researchers found that nearly one-half of women attending community college worry about being able to pay for birth control. Concern was highest among women who were uninsured or unsure about their insurance status. Women born outside the US were also more likely to express cost concerns. Privately insured women had lower odds of being concerned about the costs of birth control than those uninsured. However, those with public insurance had similar cost concerns to those without insurance.

California and Oregon have robust programs that expand coverage of family planning services based on income, but most women weren’t aware of those programs. Those who did not know where to access free or low-cost birth control expressed concern over the cost of birth control, compared to those who knew where to access free or low-cost services.

These findings show that even in states with publicly funded services, women have concerns about the affordability of contraception. Different strategies are needed to educate students about how to access low-cost or free contraceptive services, as well as interventions to increase insurance coverage among community college students. Addressing these concerns may help them experience greater reproductive autonomy and access services when needed as they work toward their educational goals.