SHERIDAN — A bill has been introduced in the Wyoming House that would add long acting reversible contraception information and services to birth control already covered by the department of health.
Senate File 150 would create an account to fund the provision of long acting reversible contraceptives for eligible women, defined as, “women who would likely become qualified for prenatal or delivery coverage under Wyoming Medicaid.”
The funds in the established account, it says, will be derived from private contributions or grants that the Wyoming Department of Health applies for and will be used solely for providing the contraceptives at little to no cost. The bill also says that long lasting contraceptives — which include injections, intrauterine devices, implants and other similar methods — will be made as widely available as other forms of birth control that are already covered.
Reproductive Healthcare of the Big Horns Director Amanda Alexander said that right now, without insurance, the lowest priced IUD the center offers is a three-year device that costs $306. From there the price jumps to $881 for an arm implant and $956 for different five-year and 10-year IUDs.
Alexander said that currently the center doesn’t offer any programs to lower costs of these contraceptives for women without insurance, but can help with paperwork for financial assistance programs for which some women will qualify.
Bill co-sponsor Sen. Fred Emrich, R-Cheyenne, said that providing long lasting contraceptives will lead to tremendous social cost savings by preventing early pregnancy and unintended childbirth to lower income women.
But Sen. Brian Boner, R-Douglas, isn’t so sure. Boner said his main concern is expanding government, and he said there wasn’t a lot of answers in terms of how much this bill would contribute to that. He said that while the bill calls for private donations and grants, there’s no guarantee that down the road general funds or Medicaid dollars wouldn’t be used.
“Just overall I was concerned about what expanding our health department does in a time of constricting budget,” Boner said. “Medicaid is already our number one line-item in our entire state budget so I just didn’t have any good answers or any reassurance that this program wasn’t going to continue to balloon once we kind of got it started with private funds.”
Boner said that debates referenced similar efforts in Colorado. According to an NPR story from 2015, around 2009, clinics in the state began to focus on long acting contraception in efforts to reduce unwanted pregnancies. A $23 million grant from the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation funded the project, which showed a 40 percent drop in teen births by 2013.
A 2015 New York Times article on Colorado’s efforts said that the Colorado Department of Health estimated that the state’s Medicaid program saved $5.85 for every dollar spent on the long acting birth control initiative. It also said that between 2010 and 2013, enrollment of women with young children in the federal nutrition program declined by almost a quarter.
Boner said that while Colorado did save money with similar efforts, it doesn’t make sense to compare bustling Colorado with the rural districts he represents. He’s also worried that after so many years of offering contraceptives that there’s a call to expand coverage.
“From what I understand we started funding contraception 20 years ago, the idea being once again that it would give us money,” Boner said, “and the fact that we’re back at the table asking to expand the program gave me doubt whether that was actually the case.”
The bill passed in the Senate on Feb. 2 and Emrich said he’s cautiously optimistic as the bill goes to what he calls a more conservative House. While he said he hopes it passes, he doesn’t want to guess what’s going to happen.
“I just hope that the House sees the light and passes it,” Emrich said. “I think it’s going to reduce the cost on Medicaid and things of that sort to the state and I think it’s just a great bill.”