Biden administration looking to expand coverage of OTC birth control, other products

The Biden administration is asking for public comment on whether to require most health insurance plans to cover a range of over-the-counter (OTC) preventive products, including contraception, for free.

The Affordable Care Act requires insurers to cover preventive services, including specific types of birth control, but only if they are prescribed. Insurers usually don’t cover OTC products.

The departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Labor and the Treasury said they want comments on how such a policy would impact access to a range of OTC items, including contraceptives, tobacco smoking cessation products, folic acid during pregnancy and breastfeeding supplies.

The comment request builds off a series of executive orders from the White House, including one from June aimed at increasing access to contraception and family planning.

It also comes after the first OTC birth control pill was approved by the Food and Drug Administration earlier this year. Opill, made by Dublin-based Perrigo, is likely to become available in stores and online starting in early 2024 for women of all ages.

The push to make birth control available over-the-counter has been happening for years, but after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and ended the constitutional right to an abortion, the movement took on more urgency.

The price of Opill hasn’t been disclosed yet, but studies have shown even a small cost burden can present a significant barrier and make a drug inaccessible.

“We know that making preventive care available over the counter can improve access — but there may still be cost barriers,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement.

In the announcement, the agencies said they were focused on advancing health equity and hoped the comments would expand understanding in “addressing systemic racism and historic inequity for women and LGBTQIA communities.”

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