U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) today was joined by Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) to introduce the Prevention Through Affordable Access Act, which would allow drug manufacturers to offer deeply discounted contraceptives to clinics serving low-income women and college students. The legislation is supported by Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
Since 1990, Congress has permitted pharmaceutical companies to offer reduced-priced drugs to certain health care providers to help ensure that lower-income individuals have access to affordable prescription drugs. However, a provision included in the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (DRA) unintentionally disallowed every college and university health clinic and hundreds of other safety net providers from accessing these discounted drugs. This legislation will fix this unintended change and allow drug companies to once again offer these discounted drugs.
The Prevention Through Affordable Access Act is co-sponsored by Senator Edward Kennedy, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, as well as Senators Patty Murray, Tom Harkin, John Kerry, Jeff Bingaman, Ron Wyden, Debbie Stabenow, Dianne Feinstein, Chuck Schumer, Hillary Clinton, Patrick Leahy, Amy Klobuchar, Sherrod Brown, Susan Collins, Barbara Boxer and Robert Menendez. Representative Joseph Crowley (D-NY) introduced companion legislation in the House.
"We must do more to help low-income women and college students access affordable contraceptive drugs," Senator Obama said. "No woman should be turned away from university clinics and health centers because the cost of prescription drugs is out of reach. Access to contraceptives is essential to lowering the rate of unintended pregnancies in this country, and we need to make sure these drugs are affordable and accessible. I thank Planned Parenthood and this bill's co-sponsors for supporting this common-sense and necessary legislation."
"Everyone wants to bring down the number of unintended pregnancies in this country. Part of the way we achieve that goal is to continue providing affordable contraceptives to low-income women and college students," Senator McCaskill said. "I applaud the drug companies for being willing to do the right thing by providing contraception at reduced prices."
"I applaud Senator Obama and Senator McCaskill for putting women's health first and introducing The Prevention Through Affordable Access Act," said Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards. "This bill is win-win. Access to affordable birth control is something Democrats and Republicans agree on. It is mainstream, pro-prevention, pro-women's health legislation. And it won't cost the taxpayers a dime."
The DRA went into effect January 1, 2007, and in just a matter of months the average price of birth control on college campuses has increased from $5 or $10 to $40 or $50. As a result, many college health clinics have stopped providing birth control because they can no longer afford to do so.
The consequences of maintaining the DRA's unintended restrictions on college clinics and safety-net facilities are grave - increasing the likelihood of unintended pregnancies among college students and low-income women. This legislation would make a technical fix and restore safety-net and university clinics' ability to access low-cost contraceptives. This legislation does not involve any government funding; it would simply restore drug manufacturers' ability to offer deeply discounted prices to safety net health care providers.