The U.S. Supreme Court finally legalized the birth control pill in 1965, and people saw it as a victory for the health of women and people who menstruate.
But it's also been the source of many disagreements and power struggles, and getting it for free or at low-cost isn't always straightforward. Here's where to get the birth control pill for free or at a lower cost.
Is birth control free?
Learning how to get birth control pills can be a challenge. For most women and people who menstruate who have health insurance, you have the option of getting birth control for free. Many women don't know that their health plan will probably cover all or most of the price of certain brands of birth control pills, patches, shots, or implants.
Birth control wasn't always covered in full by insurance companies. Only when President Obama was in office did Congress pass a law called the Affordable Care Act (also known as "Obamacare") that made many forms of birth control free to women and people who menstruate.
If you get health insurance through your job or school or are covered by your parents' health care provider, birth control pills (or other methods) are usually free. You should ask which types or forms are free because not all of them will be covered. There may be certain brands that are more expensive, and insurance won't pay for them. You'd have to pay out of pocket for those.
Other birth control methods, like the IUD or implant will last longer, but are usually more expensive when you first get them.
Can you get free birth control pills without health insurance?
The answer to this question is maybe. Planned Parenthood or other places might have special programs that can make it free or very low-cost. But most clinics either accept health insurance or charge you a small fee to get the pill. It may be difficult to get free birth control without insurance.
Can you get the pill without going to the doctor?
Birth control pills are given out by prescription only, which means you'll need a health professional to write you a prescription for it.
Luckily, you don't always need to see a doctor in person to get a prescription. For example, you can talk to a Nurse Practitioner who can write you a prescription for birth control pills over the phone. In some states, a licensed pharmacist can write you a prescription for birth control.
7 ways to get free or low-cost birth control pills
You can get birth control pills either by going to a physical location like a health clinic or drugstore or ordering them online. Here is a list of places that offer health and family planning services for women and people who menstruate:
1. Go to your doctor's office for birth control
You can always go to a doctor or nurse practitioner to get birth control pills. They can talk with you about your medical history, check your blood pressure, and maybe do a brief medical exam (usually, you wouldn't need a cervical exam). Your healthcare provider will then make the call if it's safe for you to take birth control pills.
Birth control pills have side effects (check out this list of potential side effects) that your doctor will go over with you. Then, they can write you a prescription to fill at a pharmacy. If you have health insurance, this is the most common way to get free birth control pills.
2. Order birth control online
Some private companies have licensed nurse practitioners or doctors who can prescribe birth control online. What's nice about these companies is they can write you a prescription and deliver the pills to your door.
Online birth control prescription and delivery companies offer the pill and other forms of birth control. The range of birth control offerings provided by the online telemedicine market depends on the individual company. Our company, Favor, offers the birth control pill and the Annovera™ ring (a longer-lasting birth control method). We also provide emergency contraception online (also known as the morning after pill) and internal condoms.
3. Go to a health clinic near you for birth control
Family planning clinics are government-sponsored clinics that offer family planning and preventative health services.
You can go to their website to find a family planning clinic near you. If you're a student, check if your school has a health center. A federal grant program called Title X Family Planning Program might cover birth control costs at these clinics.
4. Find a government health center to get birth control
These Centers are based in the community and are local health centers that get funds from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. You can find one near you on their website.
5. Sign up for Medicaid insurance to cover birth control:
Medicaid is health insurance offered by the government that may cover the cost of seeing a health professional and getting a prescription for birth control pills. You'd have to [check if you're eligible] and sign up for Medicaid first.
6. Go the pharmacy at your local drug store or retail chain:
Stores like CVS, Walmart, Costco, or Walgreens often have pharmacies. The store's pharmacist can give you birth control pills if you have a prescription for them. In 16 states and the District of Columbia, the pharmacist may be able to write you the prescription as well.
How much are birth control pills online?
Nowadays, you can research and find the right telemedicine company, such as Favor, who are able to prescribe and deliver birth control pills via an online service. If you have health insurance, you usually can get free birth control pills prescribed through one of these companies, if you're eligible.
You can also get the pill for an affordable price even without having health insurance. Often the cost of the medicines is set by the manufacturer, but the company can negotiate with them on keeping the prices low so that you're getting the best deal.
Here are some typical price ranges for online birth control and delivery:
How much are birth control pills at Planned Parenthood?
Planned Parenthood centers should offer any available birth control option including tablets, IUDs, emergency contraception, and more.
The following price estimates are for prescription birth control pills (not for other types of longer-lasting birth control, which could cost more):
Does Planned Parenthood offer free birth control pills?
Without insurance, the answer is they might provide free birth control pills, but you'll need to ask. Some Planned Parenthood locations can charge according to income, and so your costs could be much less for the exam and prescription. You should call Planned Parenthood to get a more specific price quote. If you need financial help, they have staff that can help answer questions and see if you qualify for reduced or free care. Their number to call if you have questions about payment options is 1-800-230-PLAN.
How much are birth control pills at Walmart, CVS, or Walmart?
Local retail stores like Walmart, CVS, and Walgreens will carry birth control pills at the store's pharmacy. You'd need to take your prescription there to get it filled. These stores often charge discounted rates for birth control pills if you don't have insurance to cover it for you.
Here are some examples of retail stores with pharmacies:
Walmart: Walmart has discounted prices for generic (non-brand name) birth control pills. You don't need insurance to get these prices:
Walgreens: Walgreens has a program called the Prescription Savings Club.
CVS: Depending on the state you live in, you can get birth control prescribed and filled at CVS. If allowed, their licensed pharmacists can prescribe you the pill with no appointment or doctor's visit required. However, to consult with the pharmacist, you'd have to go in person to your local CVS.
Recap: How to get free or low-cost birth control
Finding free or low-cost birth control pills may take some time, but it's completely doable when you know where to go. If you have insurance, usually birth control pills are free and covered by your insurance plan.
If you don't have insurance, you can find a way to get low-cost options, or even free birth control pills, if you know where to look. Planned Parenthood and the other health centers we talked about above can help. An affordable option is to get your birth control online. At Favor, it's only $15 to consult with a doctor about a birth control prescription. We actually offer the cheapest options compared to similar services and retail pharmacies, e.g. CVS. Get help from us to learn which birth control pill is best for you, at an affordable price, delivered to your door for free.
We understand how hard it can be to navigate the process. Whether you have insurance or not, you're welcome to sign up for our program. We're also one of the few online birth control prescription and delivery companies that accept Medicaid insurance. To learn more about Favor, go to our FAQs page here.