Making a one-year supply of birth control a national standard

A group of federal lawmakers recently sent a letter to the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) urging the agency to require health insurance plans to cover a 12-month supply of birth control without out-of-pocket costs. The letter cites a UCSF Bixby Center study that found a 12-month supply of birth control decreased unplanned pregnancies by 30 percent, compared with a supply of just one or three months. The study also found that giving women a one-year supply of birth control reduced the odds of an abortion by 46 percent.

Many insurance plans limit birth control prescriptions to one or three months. “If a woman is unable to refill her prescription at the time her insurance company requires, she may have a gap in her birth control use and her chanes of unintended pregnancy will increase,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter. "This is of particular concern for low- and middle-income women who may have unpredictable work hours, difficulty accessing transportation, or other barriers preventing them from getting to a pharmacy.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Office of Population Affairs (OPA) both advise health care providers to give women multiple cycles of birth control, ideally a year, to help reduce such gaps. Both Oregon and the District of Columbia recently passed laws ensuring residents have access to a one-year supply of birth control.