For Equity, 12-Month Birth Control is Crucial

Over the past several months, Upstream in Massachusetts has been working closely with NARAL MA and reproductive health champions across the state to facilitate implementation of the Contraceptive ACCESS Law, which expands and protects access to contraceptive services. Our advocacy efforts successfully led to MassHealth issuing new guidelines that allow patients to access a full-year supply of birth control pills, patches, and other prescription methods. This change would not have been possible without the community of reproductive health champions throughout the state who joined us in collectively pushing for this regulation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The evidence supporting the benefits of a 12-month birth control supply is unanimously clear: numerous studies show that individuals who received a long-term supply of birth control (6 to 12 months) were found to be at reduced likelihood of unintended pregnancy, had fewer gaps in their birth control method use, and had lower out-of-pocket costs compared to individuals who received a short-term supply of birth control (less than 3 months).

Additionally, allowing for a 12-month supply of birth control has the biggest impact on patients who are prescribed oral contraceptive pills, which is the method of choice for the vast majority of patients in Massachusetts who are using birth control. Hundreds of thousands of patients are covered by MassHealth for reproductive health services and stand to benefit directly from this new policy.

MassHealth’s new regulation is vital amidst a global pandemic where patients are already facing many complex barriers to care. Prescribing a 12-month supply of birth control has emerged as a clinical best practice during the COVID-19 pandemic because it cuts down on the number of in-person visits required for refills and can help patients retain longer-term access (especially if patients are at risk of losing their health coverage or their income during the pandemic). By supporting access to a full-year supply of birth control, insurers and providers are cutting down on barriers patients commonly face when making multiple health care visits, such as arranging for transportation, time off work, and childcare.

In conjunction with our contraceptive care program for providers, Upstream is committed to advancing statewide policies that expand and improve access to contraceptive services for all patients in the Commonwealth. In 2021, we will continue to support effective implementation of the Contraceptive ACCESS Law and to prioritize birth control access as an essential health care service throughout and after this pandemic.

For more information about how this MassHealth regulation may impact you or your patients, see this FAQ.

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