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Study: Long-term supply of the pill means fewer abortions

starbooze/FlickrResearch shows that women who are allowed to stockpile contraceptives are less likely to have an unplanned pregnancy.

Research from UC San Francisco suggests that Medi-Cal, California's version of Medicaid, could save money and decrease abortion rates by allowing women to stockpile the pill.

The study, which was first published online in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, found that low-income women who were given a one-year supply of the pill had unplanned pregnancies and abortions at rates lower than Medi-Cal patients who received only a month's supply at a time – the current practice for Medi-Cal and many other health insurers.

A Time magazine article described the findings this way:

Picking up a 12-month supply (of birth control pills) in one clinic visit does away with the need for multiple clinic visits, making it easier for women to stick to their birth-control regimen. ...

Health plans may think they're saving money by doling out supplies on a monthly basis, but (the) data shows that they could save money by authorizing a year's supply and preventing unwanted pregnancies and abortions. After all, having oral contraceptives on hand means less unprotected sex – provided they're taken as directed, of course.

The findings are particularly relevant in light of Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed budget, which includes massive cuts to government programs such as Medi-Cal in an attempt to address California's financial crisis.

Laurie Weaver, chief of the California Department of Public Health Office of Family Planning, wrote in an e-mail that the study demonstrates that investing in pregnancy prevention efforts can result in "huge dividends."

When California Watch contacted the Department of Health Care Services, which administers Medi-Cal, and asked if the agency would make changes to their contraception coverage policy in light of the study, spokesman Anthony Cava responded via email with the following statement:

The California Department of Health Care Services will examine the study in detail to determine how it might impact contraceptive policies. This examination will include assessments of the study’s methods and its results. We will carefully consider all fiscal implications of any resulting changes to our programs, as California is currently in the midst of dealing with a $25 billion budget deficit.



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