After the cost of some prescription birth control doubled at University Health Service last week, LSA senior Allyson Hoerauf headed to Capitol Hill to take matters into her own hands.

On Tuesday, Hoerauf lobbied members of Congress, including Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D–Mich.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D–Nev.), to make the price of birth control more affordable for college students around the country.

Students from schools in California, Missouri, Illinois and Nevada also traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with their respective members of Congress and represent Planned Parenthood, a non profit organization that advocates for women’s reproductive health.

The push for new legislation responds to the Deficit Reduction Act, a Congressional measure that restricted pharmaceutical companies from selling their products at reduced prices to some buyers, including colleges and universities.

Originally intended to reduce Medicare and Medicaid costs when it took effect in January 2007, the impact of the DRA on college campuses is largely regarded as accidental, according to Lori Lamerand, the CEO of Planned Parenthood for Mid and South Michigan.

“By all accounts it was truly an oversight, and it was not something that anybody intended,” Lamerand said.

The Prevention Through Affordable Access Act, a bill introduced by presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D–Ill.) and Rep. Joseph Crowley (D–N.Y.), was designed to correct the mistake and restore affordable birth control at college health clinics when it was introduced in November 2007.

The bill was read twice in the Senate and referred to the Committee on Finance. In the House, the bill was referred to the Committee on Energy and Finance. No further action has been taken since.

Hoerauf said the issue has become closely connected to partisan politics rather than just health care, which explains the legislative holdup, she said.

“Literally, all they have to do is add one line that says, ‘We will fix this because the wording was wrong,’ and they won’t do it,” Hoerauf said.

According to Lamerand, the delay affects roughly three million college students taking oral contraceptives.

“College students are coming back to campus with all sorts of increased costs, and this is just one more thing,” Lamerand said.

Lamerand acknowledged that students with health insurance through their parents may not be significantly impacted by the price hike on campus, but said that many students who pay cash for birth control often do so for reasons other than cost.

“I think many of the students who might otherwise have resources extending from their family choose not to confide in their family about their use of a contraceptive,” Lamerand said. “So I think that they are adversely affected and they rely largely on the ability to get low cost contraceptives and I’m concerned that fewer women will be proactive in their reproductive health care to prevent pregnancy.”

Since the DRA took effect, the Planned Parenthood location on the west side of Ann Arbor has seen a drop in patients, Lamerand said.

“It’s always a political hot potato when you start to talk about providing birth control on the government dime,” Lamerand said. “I think legislators largely don’t want to go on record as talking about birth control, and I think the Bush administration is playing politics with women’s health. We hope Congress is going to fix this, but so far it hasn’t happened.”

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