Increasing Access to Oral Contraceptives, State by State: There’s an App for That
This comment argues that access to oral contraceptives should be increased in the United States by embracing birth control applications (apps), which are governed by state telehealth laws.
The best-case scenario for the issue of access would be for oral contraceptives to be made available truly over-the-counter, without a prescription, and covered by public insurance. However, this initiative is highly unlikely, as the Federal Government and the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) have failed to prioritize it. This comment contemplates the political and financial motivations of the FDA and pharmaceutical companies not to push for an over-the-counter switch, as well as the political climate surrounding and shaping this issue. This comment also evaluates state pharmacy prescriber laws that were designed to increase access despite these roadblocks, and concludes that these laws are insufficient as standalone strategies.
Finally, this comment introduces and evaluates state telehealth laws governing birth control apps, and argues that states should draft such laws in a way that legitimizes telehealth. These apps fly under the political radar,1 do not require legislative approval, and effectively elevate access to oral contraceptives to virtually over-the-counter status. This comment specifically recommends states use California’s telehealth regulatory framework as a workable model, which deems telehealth a legitimate means of healthcare, and requires its public insurance [Medi-Cal] to reimburse some forms of telehealth.