During a recent appearance on The Dr. Oz Show, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said birth control “should not be done by prescription.” A subsequent editorial by the Las Vegas Review-Journal used Trump’s remarks to falsely claim that Planned Parenthood is “the biggest obstacle” to “the availability of and access to birth control for women,” ignoring both media and medical groups’ concern that selling birth control over the counter could make it less affordable and accessible if health insurance does not continue to cover the cost.
On Dr. Oz Show, Trump Proposed Making Contraceptives Available Without Prescription
Trump Said Birth Control Should Be Available Without A Prescription. During the September 15 edition of The Dr. Oz Show, host Dr. Mehmet Oz asked Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump if “it should be mandated in this country that we reimburse women for their birth control.” Trump did not answer the question about reimbursement but instead replied he was “not in favor of prescription for birth control.” From The Washington Post:
DR. MEHMET OZ: But let me talk to my candidate about a big topic that comes up all the time, which is birth control. Do you think it should be mandated in this country that we reimburse women for their birth control?
DONALD TRUMP: I think what we have in birth control is, you know, when you have to get a prescription, that's a pretty tough something to climb. And I would say it should not be a prescription. It should not be done by prescription. You have women that just aren't in a position to go get a prescription. And more and more people are coming out and saying that, but I am not in favor of prescription for birth control. [The Washington Post, 9/15/16]
Las Vegas Review-Journal Praises Trump’s Idea, Falsely Claims Planned Parenthood Is Obstructing Access To Birth Control
Las Vegas Review-Journal: Planned Parenthood “Presents The Biggest Obstacle” To The “Availability Of And Access to Birth Control.” In a September 22 editorial, the Las Vegas Review-Journal cited Trump’s remarks favorably while claiming that Planned Parenthood “presents the biggest obstacle” “to the availability of and access to birth control for women.” The Review-Journal cited support from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) for making birth control available over the counter, but did not mention that ACOG's support was contingent on accompanying insurance coverage. From the Las Vegas Review-Journal:
When it comes to the availability of and access to birth control for women, who would you guess presents the biggest obstacles? The answer might surprise you.
The Associated Press and other media outlets reported last week that Donald Trump says he believes women should be able to obtain birth control without a prescription. His comments came during an appearance on “The Dr. Oz Show,” on which Mr. Trump suggested that, for many women, obtaining a prescription can be challenging.
The AP report pointed out that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists declared support for nonprescription birth control pills in 2012, but some groups oppose the measure because of the health risks associated with the medicines. Insurance also doesn’t cover over-the-counter drugs, which could make the pills far more expensive. That’s the talking point offered by Planned Parenthood and its fellow travelers, anyway.
Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, warned that such a move would “put access to birth control out of reach for millions of women by making it more expensive.” NARAL Pro-Choice also voiced opposition, accusing Mr. Trump of fighting policies “that actually help women.”
This is protectionism, pure and simple. You can’t argue that you’re in favor of availability and access, while doing all you can to limit availability and access. If Planned Parenthood is really about what it claims to be about, then it should welcome the access — and better prices — that competition provides. [Las Vegas Review-Journal, 9/22/16]
Media, ACOG Explain Why Removing Prescription Requirements Without Coverage Would Decrease Affordability, Impose Additional Barriers To Access
Vox: Over-The-Counter Contraception Would Be Less Accessible “Because Insurance Plans Typically Don’t Cover Non-Prescription Drugs.” Before Trump suggested that contraceptives be sold over the counter, conservative lawmakers had forwarded similar proposals. Vox’s Sarah Kliff reported that like these previous proposals, Trump’s suggested policy would actually make contraception less accessible “because insurance plans typically don’t cover non-prescription drugs.” As a result, if contraception was “moved over the counter, women might have to start paying more out of pocket,” which could “actually drive prices up.” From Vox (emphasis original):
This is the kind of thing that sounds like a good idea — women often complain that going to the doctor for a birth control prescription seems like an unnecessary burden. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists very clearly endorses moving birth control over the counter.
Still, you shouldn’t expect ACOG or other women’s health groups to start cheering [Trump’s proposal]. ACOG, Planned Parenthood, and other advocacy groups have opposed previous Republican efforts to move birth control over the counter.
They argue that proposals like Trump’s could make the Pill more expensive, because insurance plans typically don’t cover non-prescription drugs like Tylenol or Motrin. That means if birth control moved over the counter, women might have to start paying more out of pocket for their contraceptives.
ACOG and other women’s health groups, like Planned Parenthood, take issue with how Republicans propose to move birth control over the counter. They worry that making that single policy change would make birth control more expensive, as insurance plans generally don’t cover medications that aren’t prescribed by a doctor.
Just like health insurance plans don’t cover the Tylenol you buy in the pharmacy, they might stop covering birth control pills too. So it’s quite possible that moving birth control over the counter, without a requirement that insurance plans still cover the medication, would actually drive prices up. [Vox, 9/15/16]
Slate: “Taking Birth Control Out Of The Realm Of Insurance” Only Sounds “Like A Win To People Who Don’t Want The Government” Providing Contraception. Slate’s Christina Cauterucci reported that Trump’s proposal would create “a major hurdle” for many individuals to access contraception because it would force people to “pay out of pocket” for birth control that they currently “get for free with a prescription.” According to Cauterucci, “taking birth control out of the realm of insurance” only appears “like a win to people who don’t want the government” providing contraception. From Slate:
But Trump isn’t the first conservative to take this stance on contraception. Some Republican leaders, such as Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, have urged lawmakers to make birth control available over the counter as a measure to advance small-government ideals. Now that the Affordable Care Act has made contraception free for all insured women, taking birth control out of the realm of insurance and into the realm of personal expense looks like a win to people who don’t want the government subsidizing sex pills. Out of the mouths of conservatives, statements like these help lawmakers win points with the vast majority of Americans who support access to birth control.
The fact that women would have to pay out of pocket for over-the-counter birth control they now get for free with a prescription is a major hurdle for many who support increased access to contraception. [Slate, 9/15/16]
American College Of Obstetricians And Gynecologists: Removing Prescription Requirement Would Make The Costs Of Contraception“Prohibitive.” In May 2015, congressional Republicans introduced legislation that would have allowed “routine-use contraceptives” to be sold without a prescription. The Huffington Post called this proposal a “GOP end run around the Affordable Care Act provision that requires most employers to cover the full range of contraception at no cost to women” and quoted ACOG president Mark S. DeFrancesco on the potential pitfalls of a proposal similar to Trump’s. According to DeFrancesco, the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that contraceptives be made “available to women without a co-pay … increased access to contraception.” He argued that in contrast, making contraception available over the counter “would actually make more women have to pay for their birth control, and for someone women, the cost would be prohibitive.” From The Huffington Post:
“The Affordable Care Act removed many barriers to preventive care that keeps women healthy,” said ACOG President Mark S. DeFrancesco, M.D., in a statement. “By making contraceptives available to women without a co-pay, it has truly increased access to contraception, thereby decreasing unintended pregnancies, and allowing women to better plan their futures. Unfortunately, instead of improving access, this bill would actually make more women have to pay for their birth control, and for some women, the cost would be prohibitive.”
“As women’s health care providers, we welcome robust and productive dialogue about the indisputable role that contraceptives play in the health, well-being, and productivity of American women. We would welcome any legislation that would do what this proposal purports to do – help women. As it stands, however, we cannot support a plan that creates one route to access at the expense of another, more helpful route,” he said. [The Huffington Post, 5/21/15]
Planned Parenthood And NARAL Support Non-Prescription Birth Control Access, If It’s Covered By Insurance
Planned Parenthood Action Fund Praised Non-Prescription Birth Control Pill Plan, Backed Proposal To Ensure It Is Covered By Insurance. A June 9, 2015, statement by Planned Parenthood Action Fund “praised genuine efforts” to allow “FDA-approved birth control pills to be made available over-the-counter.” The statement noted that the organization supports the “Affordability IS Access Act,” whose purpose is to make over-the-counter birth control covered by insurance. It cited a study showing that “rate of unintended pregnancies among low-income women could drop by as much as 25 percent if birth control pills were made available over-the-counter while still being covered by insurance with no copay.” From Planned Parenthood Action Fund:
Planned Parenthood Action Fund praised genuine efforts to expand access to birth control today, including the introduction of the “Affordability IS Access Act”, which builds on the contraception coverage required in the Affordable Care Act by allowing FDA-approved birth control pills to be made available over-the-counter, without a copay. According to a study published recently in the journal Contraception, the rate of unintended pregnancies among low-income women could drop by as much as 25 percent if birth control pills were made available over-the-counter while still being covered by insurance with no copay.
This important legislation recognizes that in order to increase women’s access to oral contraceptives, it must be both easier to obtain and afford. This legislation makes clear that the determination as to whether a drug should be available for use without a prescription is appropriately and solely made by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and when a birth control product is made available over-the-counter, it should be covered by health insurance, without a prescription and without out-of-pocket costs, as already required by current law. Women already paying for health insurance that includes birth control should not have to pay again when obtaining the birth control pill over-the-counter. [Planned Parenthood Action Fund, 6/9/15]
NARAL Pro-Choice America Supported Legislation That Would Ensure Health Insurance Coverage Of Over-The-Counter Birth Control Pills. In a July 22, 2015, statement, NARAL Pro-Choice America indicated that it supported the “Affordability Is Access Act,” which would “ensur[e] that health plans cover the sale of all over-the-counter birth-control pills that are FDA approved.” [NARAL Pro-Choice America, 6/22/15]
Las Vegas Review-Journal Is Owned By GOP Mega-Donor And Trump Supporter Sheldon Adelson
The Las Vegas Review-Journal Is Owned By GOP Mega-Donor Sheldon Adelson. In December 2015, the Las Vegas Review-Journal was purchased by “the family of Sheldon and Miriam Adelson through their controlling interest in News + Media Capital Group LLC,” according to the company’s website. Adelson is a well-known GOP mega-donor who reportedly spent $100 million to defeat President Obama in 2012. [Media Matters, 12/16/15; Las Vegas Review-Journal, accessed 9/23/16]
Adelson Endorsed Trump For President. In a May 13 op-ed in The Washington Post, Adelson endorsed Trump and encouraged “fellow Republicans … to do the same.” [The Washington Post, 5/13/16]