Support for Universal Contraception Coverage - Joint Statement
UBC Medical Undergraduate Society - Access BC
Access to contraception is a human right. Universal coverage for contraception empowers people, improves health outcomes, and leads to significant cost savings. Today, UBC medical students join the AccessBC campaign to advocate that prescription contraception be made universally available at no cost in British Columbia.
“As medical students, we see patients every day who struggle with access to contraception,” says Tribesty Nguyen, a third-year medical student at the University of British Columbia and senior chair of the Medical Undergraduate Society’s Political Advocacy Committee. “These patients come from all walks of life: the barista you see every morning at your favourite coffee shop who has to decide between paying for contraception or rent that month; the refugee family who recently arrived in Canada and is struggling to feed their kids; the teenager from a wealthy family, who is unable to pay due to privacy concerns with their family. In all of these situations, it comes down to a choice between contraception and another fundamental human need. They’re difficult choices to make and can potentially jeopardize that person's safety. No one should have to make this choice.”
According to a 2019 Canadian Medical Association Journal Report, cost is one of the largest barriers impeding access to contraception. Highly effective methods with minimal side effects, such as intrauterine devices (IUDs), cost between $75 and $380. People who cannot afford those methods often go without, or turn to less reliable options, leading to higher rates of unintended pregnancy.
Studies have also shown that the cost of universal access to contraception is more than offset by savings to the health care system, thanks to reduced medical costs resulting from unintended pregnancies. An Options for Sexual Health study from 2010 estimated that the BC government could save as much as $95 million annually - nearly twice the projected cost of implementing this policy. A separate 2015 study in the Canadian Association Medical Journal estimated that the cost of delivering universal contraception across Canada would be $157 million, but the savings - for direct medical costs of unintended pregnancy alone - would be approximately $320 million.
In many other locations around the world, such as UK, France, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Italy, and Germany, prescription contraception is partly or fully covered by public health care systems. It is long past time that our government in British Columbia implements a similar policy, both for the safety and empowerment of women and people who can get pregnant, and overall cost savings.
We, UBC Medical Students and AccessBC, call on the Government of British Columbia and the Legislative Assembly to include funding for universal contraception coverage in the 2020 budget.
Furthermore, to ensure that a diverse range of contraception options are available for the varying needs and personal preferences of patients, we call on the Government of British Columbia and the Legislative Assembly to ensure that all community clinics, hospitals, and identified health care sites are supported to carry a full complement of contraception options. That choice should be available, and free to patients, based on their needs and personal preferences - not based on their ability to pay.
“Navigating the medical system is already a challenge for so many patients,” said Devon Black, co-founder of AccessBC. “When people are struggling to find a doctor, figure out what contraception works for them, travel long distances to appointments, or protect their privacy from abusive partners, the last thing they should have to worry about is whether they can cover the cost of basic medical care.”
“Including contraception coverage in our provincial medical services plan is really a ‘no-brainer’ to us,” says Samuel Kirk, a first-year medical student at the University of British Columbia and member of the Medical Undergraduate Society’s Political Advocacy Committee. “The added stress of having to pay for contraception weighs heavily on patients, and unexpected pregnancies even more so. Here we have the opportunity to enable people to plan their pregnancies while saving money, which is a win for everyone.”
About the UBC Medical Undergraduate Society
The UBC Medical Undergraduate Society (MUS) is comprised of over 1,100 medical students in British Columbia. It serves to represent students on a university, community, provincial, and national level, and provides its members with valuable resources and services throughout the course of their medical training.
The UBC Medicine Political Advocacy Committee is a student-led group within the MUS that promotes and lobbies for political change on current medical and health-related issues. This group is dedicated to improving the healthcare system for the benefit of all residents of BC and Canada.