Yesterday, I paid $69 for the privilege of not getting pregnant for one month. I know; much less than what a baby would cost (thanks, poster in my high school nurse’s office!). But way more than I can afford in my current financial situation. I use the NuvaRing, the notoriously expensive form of birth control, and I’m seriously considering trying to buy my birth control on the black market, sketchy as it may sound. And I’m not the only one.
I’m a writer. Translation: I don’t make much money. I pay out of pocket for the shitty health insurance I have now, the shitty health insurance that covers a whopping $14 of my $98 NuvaRing prescription. Even with a manufacturer’s coupon, I paid $69 for my NuvaRing this month. $69. FOR ONE MONTH.
A lot of women I know dislike the NuvaRing, but I absolutely love it. It’s my birth control of choice; I’m not ready for an IUD, I don’t feel safe enough using only condoms, and after seven years of daily birth control pills, I wanted to be done. So my gynecologist switched me over to the NuvaRing last October. I insert it when my period is over, go about my business, take it out, have my period, and repeat. I could try the Depo-Provera shot or Implanon, but I’m hesitant to commit to something long-term. I like the short-term, easy option of the NuvaRing.
When I turned 26 last December, I had to get off my mom’s insurance plan: Bye-bye, $35 co-pay! My gyno was nice enough to give me three free rings a few months back, but I can’t expect that her office will keep subsidizing me, as much as I’d like to keep asking. The NuvaRing is a brand name drug, meaning it doesn’t have a generic, meaning that I can’t get any other version of the drug. I knew it was an expensive drug when I started using it last fall, but this expensive? Really? I called my pharmacy, who sent me to my insurance company, who sent me to the prescription department. The prescription department said nope, nada, no way of getting a lower copay, not even with a note from my doctor saying the NuvaRing is medically necessary. If I want to keep using it, I’m stuck paying through the nose.
And when I mentioned the Affordable Care Act, set to go into action in just a few days on August 1st, 2012, neither the pharmacist or the insurance company representative I talked to had any idea what it was. Or if my birth control would be covered under it. Um?
Yes, I could switch back to a lower cost birth control pill. But I don’t want to. I found a birth control that works for me, my body, and my lifestyle, and I want to stay on it. Yes, I could ask my boyfriend to pay for half of it—but as a PhD student, he’s not exactly rolling in cash, either. Yes, I could order the NuvaRings online from Canada, like one of my Twitter followers suggested to me after a long tweetrant about my situation. It looks like I could get a three months supply from a Canadian pharmacy for about $85, not a bad deal (holler at me in the comments if you’ve done this…do they ship it on ice?) I could also get the prescription from Planned Parenthood, where it’s a whole $4 less than at my local pharmacy.
Would I buy birth control out of the trunk of a car, like this XOJane writer? Hell yeah I would, if I could keep using the NuvaRing, like she did. I’m seriously about to take out a Wanted ad on my local Craigslist, hoping that some smart, savvy lady is selling her unused NuvaRings. Maybe she tried it and didn’t like it, maybe she’s pregnant now, maybe she got a free sample from her doctor. Whatever the reason, I will pay for that birth control, as long as it’s less than $40 and has been continuously refrigerated. I will drive to her home and transport it back to my apartment in a cooler. I will shake her hand and thank her.
Sketchy as it sounds (and let’s be honest, sketchy as it actually is), black market birth control is becoming a real option for many women, out of necessity. Admittedly, the NuvaRing is probably a bad one to procure outside of a pharmacy, because it needs to be stored at 60 degrees. But it also comes in a sealed plastic container, so that makes me feel like it’s less likely to be tampered with. Right? I don’t know, maybe I’m crazy. It’s definitely a risky move. But after fighting with my insurance company, trying to find as many coupons and discounts as I can, and doing lots and lots of research, I’m kind of at my wit’s end here.
I haven’t tried any means of getting back-alley birth control just yet, but next month–and its $69 price tag–is looming. I’m on birth control because I’m not yet ready (financially or otherwise) to have a baby. I’m acting as a responsible, informed, adult: one whose aware of her options, and her preferences, about birth control. Still, I’m backed into a corner by my situation, frantically weighing my options. And sadly, buying the NuvaRing on the black market increasingly seems like one of the best of those options.