B.C. begins to roll out free prescription contraceptives for all residents

B.C. begins to roll out free prescription contraceptives for all residents

The province has begun offering free prescription contraceptives to all British Columbia residents.

B.C.’s Finance Minister Katrine Conroy announced last month that the province would commit $119 million for three years of free prescription contraceptives to all residents as part of the B.C. Budget.

READ MORE: Budget 2023: Free contraception, health-care funding, renters tax credit top promises by B.C. government

There are nearly 70 different contraceptives that are available, which include Copper IUDs, Morning-after pills, and contraceptive injections.

Those that wish to obtain the products no longer need to go through the hassle of completing forms or registering. They can simply visit most pharmacies and present a prescription along with their B.C. Services Card to acquire the products.

“Free prescription contraception is a fantastic policy. It helps improve health outcomes, it makes life more affordable, it makes life more equal and it’s gonna save the government money, and it’s here in British Columbia and we couldn’t be happier,” said Teale Phelps Bondaroff, AccessBC’s co-founder.

AccessBC has campaigned since 2017 to get the province on board with providing free products. The BC NDP ran with this healthcare measure as part of its platform in 2020.

A study in 2010 found that funding this would save the government an estimated $95 million a year through reductions in abortions, prenatal visits and social support.

Phelps Bondaroff, who is also a Saanich Councillor, says this change is already making waves across the country with other leaders showing interest in bringing similar action to their provinces.

“The NDP in the Yukon, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Nova Scotia have all supported free contraception and Quebec Solidaire in Quebec as well. So we’re seeing change on the ground and it’s fantastic,” said Bondaroff.

Nurse Practitioners such as Sara Eftekhar can now prescribe contraceptives. As a health care professional, she says that this change will eliminate the affordability issue.

“I would talk to [patients] about contraception and then having to talk about potentially ‘it’s going to cost you $500 for an IUD. Do you have that amount of money?’ or ‘it’s going to cost you $30, $40 a month for the pill. Is that going to be okay for you?’ and they would say no,” said Eftekhar.

However, with a doctor shortage still affecting B.C., Eftekhar is concerned with wait times for patients to get their contraceptives.

“I suspect that people might be using different avenues, [such] as urgent care, maybe walk-in clinics, to be able to get contraception. So I hope the government monitors and evaluates this policy,” she added.

While it’s time for celebration for being the first province in the country to make a move like this, Phelps Bondaroff says his team is working on advocating for other provinces to follow suit.

Among their list of priorities is expanding the list of prescription contraceptives to include products such as the patch and the ring. In the future, AccessBC also wants to have male contraceptives added as well.

– With files from The Canadian Press

Oli HerreraOli Herrera

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