Here’s why Laurier’s drug plan no longer covering the cost of oral contraceptives is wrong

Photo by Darrien Funk

Last month, I went to refill my birth control prescription, only to discover that my regular $4 dispensing fee climbed to $50 to also cover the cost of the drug itself. After showing clear signs of confusion, the pharmacist proceeded to tell me that Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union’s drug plan does not cover the costs of oral contraceptives. 

Thankfully, I’m fortunate enough to cover the costs of the pill, so I paid for my prescription out of pocket and left the pharmacy enraged at and appalled by Laurier and its students’ union. How could they promote student well-being without offering coverage for the most common birth control method?

I felt humiliated, betrayed, and royally pissed off.

After turning 21, I was no longer covered by my parent’s health insurance and without any proof of other health insurance, I had no choice but to remain in the automatic enrollment of Laurier’s drug coverage program. After visiting the students’ union drug coverage web page, I learned that Laurier does not cover oral contraceptives, yet they cover non-oral contraceptives like IUDs (Intrauterine device). 

And do not get me started on how Laurier’s drug plan also doesn’t cover the Gardasil vaccine – —

 a preventative vaccine against human papillomavirus (HPV), the most common sexually transmitted infection.

Excuse me, but what? You’re telling me that I have to pay $126.23 for health coverage by the university and not even be able to use it for what I need? I could have saved this money to pay for my prescription fees out of pocket like I have to do now!

For the record, I do not support not having health coverage; however, the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) covers all children and youth until they reach 25 years of age under OHIP+ if they do not have a private health insurance plan. In essence, if I was able to opt-out of Laurier’s health insurance program, I would have had my birth control prescription covered by OHIP+ which covers an extensive number of contraceptives. 

I blame myself for not being aware of the details of the university’s health coverage plan, but I still feel cheated. I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place trying to decide if I switch methods of birth control to get the coverage or budget my money, even more than I do now, to be able to afford the out-of-pocket fees.

There are pros and cons to every method of contraceptive, and some people like some methods over others. IUDs are low maintenance and effective, but come at an expense of up to $1300, depending on your health insurance, and can have different side effects depending on if it is a hormonal or non-hormonal IUD. 

On the other hand, the pill is taken daily yet still convenient, effective, and somewhat cost-effective ranging from $0 – $50 per dose. Most methods of contraception (aside from condoms) have side effects that occur in the first three months of starting a new contraceptive or three months after going off a contraceptive. It’s certainly not always an easy decision.

But women should not have to pick their method of contraception based on their health insurance — – it should be about what method works best for you and your body. 

I love taking the pill because it works best with my lifestyle and agrees with my body, but I’m concerned about its long-term expenses. Even while receiving three months’ worth of pills at a time, I will have to pay $200 out of pocket for the year until I’m no longer a Laurier student and thus no longer required to pay for Laurier’s useless health insurance. 

If you are an individual who does benefit from Laurier’s health plan, then I’m genuinely happy that someone is benefitting from it. However, as a woman who does not require much medical treatment or prescriptions, I am insulted. 

Other Ontario universities like the University of Waterloo, Western University, and Queen’s University, to name a few, do cover oral contraceptives in their health insurance plans. What happened, Laurier? Are you just trying to cut costs on health insurance packages? Or not support a female’s preferred method of contraception?

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