By: 15 July 2015
Affordable Care Act leads to dramatic drop in price for contraceptives

Affordable Care Act leads to dramatic drop in price for contraceptives

US study estimates savings of $1.4 billion per year for contraceptives

Average out-of-pocket spending for oral contraceptive pills and the intrauterine device (IUD) has decreased significantly since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) took effect, claim researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

Results from the study, the first to document how prices for prescription contraceptive methods have changed since the ACA took effect, are published in Health Affairs.

“Our study found that before the mandate’s implementation, the cost of contraceptives for women using them represented a significant portion (30–44 per cent) of total out-of-pocket health care spending,” said lead author Nora Becker. “We estimate that the ACA is saving the average pill user $255 per year, and the average woman receiving an IUD is saving $248. Spread over an estimated 6.88 million privately insured oral contraceptive users in the United States, consumer annual contribution to spending on the pill could be reduced by almost $1.5 billion annually.”

Additional results showed decreases in other, less widely used forms of contraception including spending for emergency contraception (93 per cent), and diaphragms and cervical caps (84 per cent). Little change was seen for the ring (2 per cent) and the patch (3 percent).

The Affordable Care Act mandates that private health insurance plans cover prescription contraceptives with no consumer cost sharing. However, the authors found that average out-of-pocket spending for contraceptives remained above zero for two reasons: not all brands of contraceptive devices are required to be covered with zero-cost sharing, and some women in the data were enrolled in plans that were not yet subject to the mandate or whose employers did not participate for religious reasons.

“It’s possible that by decreasing out-of-pocket expenses, more women will use contraception, or switch to a longer-term method, but additional research is needed to determine both the socioeconomic and health effects for women,” said co-author Daniel Polsky. “In the long term, if we do in fact see an increase in the use of contraceptives, that could potentially lead to a lower overall fertility rate, and potentially increased economic opportunities for women and their families.”

The study’s findings are based on a sample consisting of 17.6 million monthly observations for 790,895 women ages 13–45 from all 50 states and the District of Columbia who were enrolled in private health insurance for at least one month from 2008 to 2013.


Becker, N.V., & Polsky, D. (2015) Women saw large decrease in out-of-pocket spending for contraceptives after ACA mandate removed cost sharing. Health Affairs 34(7), 1204. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2015.0127

Source: Penn Medicine