Birth control pills for non-CU partner?

Dear Alice,

I'm a student at Columbia with the school's health insurance. I'm frustrated by the inability to get birth control pills for my domestic partner/girlfriend (I'm a male student). The school offers many types of birth control, but it seems impossible to get my girlfriend the pill. I'd like to be responsible for the choice we've made in birth control, and it is incredibly expensive to get the pill elsewhere (her job's insurance doesn't cover it). Do you have any suggestions? Won't it cost Columbia more if she becomes pregnant and we sign up for the school's insurance plan? I understand that female students of the school are able to get the pill. Why can't I make an appointment for her?

—Responsible and frustrated

Dear Responsible and frustrated,

With insurance coverage being as complex as it is these days, your frustration is completely understandable. Because your partner isn’t personally enrolled with the Columbia Student Health Insurance Plan, she won’t able to obtain birth control pills through Columbia Health. As you may know, only the insured individual can receive coverage for medications prescribed to her/him. Using your insurance to pay for services or medications for anyone other than yourself is insurance fraud and that’s not a situation anyone wants to be in. Thankfully, because she is insured through her workplace, your girlfriend should now have access to free birth control options (as well as other free services, such as Pap tests and cancer screenings) as required by the Affordable Care Act. Additionally, you and your partner are welcome to pick up some free condoms and other safer sex supplies at various locations on the Morningside campus.

Columbia's on-campus health and insurance services are designed primarily for enrolled students, who can obtain birth control through Medical Services (Morningside). However, students may add coverage for certain dependents. This won’t necessarily apply to your particular situation, because unless you’re married or have a domestic partnership.  Otherwise your partner will not qualify as your dependent. Dependents of Columbia students who may also enroll in the insurance plan include legal spouses, domestic partners (opposite or same-sex), unmarried children under 26, and newborn or newly adopted children.

In the meantime, it might be best if your girlfriend contacts her insurance company to find out exactly which services and medications are covered by her plan. If her insurance does not yet provide birth control, or if she loses her insurance, your partner may consider visiting Planned Parenthood or another community health clinic to access low-cost or free birth control.

Some Planned Parenthood centers also participate in certain public insurance programs that provide health care coverage based on income. New Yorkers have access to the Family Planning Benefit Program, a statewide Medicaid program that provides family planning benefits, such as free birth control pills, gynecological exams, and testing for sexually transmitted infections to eligible patients (including men). Check with your local Planned Parenthood or community health center for more information.

The support you’ve demonstrated for your partner is admirable. Fortunately, most private insurance companies have already begun to provide free birth control, and community health organizations serve as a reliable backup resource. Here’s to great options!

Last updated Apr 16, 2015
Originally published Dec 01, 1993

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