The country’s national association of paediatricians is recommending that young Canadians get free access contraceptives such as birth control and condoms.
In a statement released on May 9, the Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS) says that while access to contraception is recognized as a basic human right, the cost of birth control, condoms, and IUDs often hold Canadian youth back from accessing these preventative methods.
“Canadian contraceptive care providers identify cost as the single most important barrier to access, and youth as the population most disproportionately affected by this barrier,” reads the report.
“Youth are much more likely to use condoms when they are available at no cost. Providing no-cost contraception has been clearly associated with reducing the incidence of teen pregnancy.”
CPS highlights that not all provincial, territorial, and private pharmaceutical insurance employer healthcare plans cover contraceptive methods such as condoms, contraceptive patches, vaginal rings, and long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs)
“In most jurisdictions, a substantial proportion of the population has neither private nor public pharmaceutical insurance, and many youth are forced to pay high up-front costs for contraceptives or go without.”
There are programs across the country that attempt to lower costs through school-based services and government-run youth clinics.
But CPS notes that requiring young people to use clinics instead of “providing no-cost contraception at all points contact with the health care system hinders both initiation of and adherence to contraception.”
In order to implement universal, no-cost, confidential access to contraceptives, CPS has laid out the following suggestions:
1. All contraceptives (including condoms) should be covered under provincial/territorial or federal health plans at no cost, until age 25.
2. Health ministries should also provide contraceptives at no cost to community-based health care services for youth, to support point-of-care dispensing and simplify access.
3. Health ministries that adopt public-private models to cover contraceptives must ensure that privately insured youth have equal access to no-cost, confidential contraception. To that end, they must:
a. Create a mechanism for pharmacists to identify a youth’s insurance provider, such that contraceptives can be dispensed without a parent’s knowledge.
b. Require private insurers to cover the entire cost of all contraceptives for youth at the point-of-sale, until age 25.
c. Require private insurers to protect confidentiality by not reporting the purchase of contraceptives to a primary policy holder.
4. If oral or other short-acting hormonal contraceptives become available over-the-counter, the law should ensure their continued provision at no cost, until age 25, under all government and private pharmaceutical plan
CPS notes that universal contraception coverage would increase public spending by an estimated $157 million annually, this amount would be offset by the nearly $320 million saved in direct medical costs related to unintended pregnancies.