CVS Is Illegally Charging for Birth Control Because of a "Glitch" In the System

MIAMI - AUGUST 07: Roxana Selagea, a Publix Supermarket pharmacy manager, retrieves a bottle of antibiotics from the shelf August 7, 2007 in Miami, Florida. Publix has decided to start giving away seven commonly prescribed antibiotics for free. The oral antibiotics will be available at no cost to any customers with a prescription as often as they need it. Publix will offer 14-day supplies of the seven drugs at all of the company's pharmacies. The supermarket chain operates 684 pharmacies in five states. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
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Obamacare may mandate free contraceptives, but that hasn't stopped CVS from illegally charging for birth control pills. An inquiry by Congresswoman Jackie Speier recently revealed that these illegal contraceptives charges have affected 11,000 women who, under federal law, should have gotten their prescriptions for free.

The Women’s Health Amendment under the Affordable Care Act requires coverage of women’s reproductive health services without cost-sharing. This means that generic versions of FDA approved contraceptives that are prescribed by a doctor, such as vaginal rings, pills, hormone patches, hormone shots, and IUDs, should all be free for women covered by the ACA.

After hearing that a woman on her staff was charged a copay for birth control pills at a CVS in Washington, D.C., Speier brought the issue to the public’s attention with a letter to Larry Merlo, CEO of CVS, saying,

Charging a co-pay for generic prescription birth control is a violation of federal law, and that is exactly what was taking place… I worry that many women may not know their rights under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and may go without this essential family planning service guaranteed to them under law. We’ve already established through the ACA that being a woman is no longer a pre-existing condition when it comes to health insurance coverage.

CVS claims that a price-coding error is to blame for charging thousands of women for their generic contraceptives. Sol J. Ross, Head of Federal Affairs of CVS Health, stated that all the women affected will be receiving reimbursement checks by Oct. 1 at the latest.

But this isn’t the end of the issue. Speier has also been receiving complaints from women who have been charged for their contraceptives at other companies, such as Walgreens and Target. And, women may be charged a copay when their birth control is prescribed in packs of three rather than packs of one.

It is important that women have access to contraceptives. Pharmacies need to take responsibility for their actions, and comply with federal law to ensure that there aren’t these types of “glitches” in the first place. Women who don’t know their rights are clearly being charged unnecessarily, and those who can't afford the copay may even go without birth control at all.

What is surprising to me is that it seems as though these pharmacies will face no consequences for their actions. If you have been illegally charged for birth control, speak up and hold the pharmacy accountable for their actions. If you know someone who has been paying for their birth control, make sure that they know their rights. Pharmacies won’t be able to get away with this type of behavior if we all speak up and demand the free contraceptives we are legally entitled to. After all, isn’t it time that we stop having to deal with this type of bullshit?

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