If you are worried about losing access to no-cost birth control, the Pill Club could make that process suck a little bit less
Does your health insurance cover the cost of contraceptives such as birth control because of the Affordable Care Act? And, since it looks like the ACA will likely get repealed, does that make you mad? If the answer is yes, it makes me mad too.
While we may be headed towards bad news regarding access to no-cost contraceptives, including emergency contraception, there is one startup that could make your life a little bit easier. It’s called the Pill Club.
Launched in 2016 in Mountain View, the Pill Club acts as an e-pharmacy for birth control, able to prescribe medication and deliver contraceptives to your door for free. If you have insurance, it costs nothing (at the moment) to use the service. If you don’t have health insurance, it costs $15 for a one-time doctor fee to prescribe the medication and varying prices for the birth control itself, depending on whichever pills you choose among the 90 varieties that the Pill Club prescribes.
To join, you just need to sign up online and move your current prescription from your local pharmacy over to the Pill Club. They can also deliver plan B with a prescription. And, they throw in goodies like chocolate or tampons, among other things.
Right now, the Pill Club is available in AZ, CA, FL, HI, IL, MA, NY, OH, WA, and NV. Interestingly, for those who use the Pill Club, they can mail your birth control to a “temporary address for you anywhere within the U.S., such as when you are on vacation or out of town.” Obviously, we cannot advise trying to take advantage of this loop hole, but if you have a friend or family member who would like to give you some extra birth control and lives in a state covered by the Pill Club, well, you can do the math.
What will the Pill Club do if the ACA is repealed?
Speaking with Nick Chang, the Pill Club’s founder and CEO, he tells Geektime that they are trying to prepare customers for what may come. He notes that in CA, “Most now cover Plan B fully if they’re prescribed emergency contraception. In CA, we can provide that as a service for patients, and they can ask us to put it in their package. We are doing this in case they lose their coverage, [and] if emergency contraception isn’t something that carries forward.”
Going forward, they are also going to provide a generic version of Plan B that will be cheaper than those at typical pharmacies such as Walgreens or CVS.
He also notes that in CA, Governor Jerry Brown has allowed women to be able to order more than one month of birth control at a time, with a maximum of up to 12 months at once. For this reason, he encourages Pill Club members in CA to order as much birth control as they can now before any changes may occur.
Looking ahead, he says that access to birth control is going to become a very state-based issue. For example, Bustle reports that, “California, Vermont, Illinois, and Maryland moved to enact the ACA’s contraception mandate into state law in 2014,” while, “New York, Minnesota, Colorado, and Massachusetts are looking to pursue similar measures.”
Beyond this, Chang says that they will do their best to make contraceptives the lowest cost possible, offering generics on all birth control and emergency contraception.
How big is the Pill Club at this point?
The Pill Club is in the midst of securing a seed round and officially launched its platform in May 2016, though Chang started the company in 2014. According to the Pill Club, they have thousands of users and employ 15 people, with more than half at a full-time capacity.
Chang, who has a background in medicine from Duke and a JD from Stanford, started the Pill Club after understanding the obstacles women face in accessing birth control. He thought to himself, “If someone can make the Dollar Shave Club, why not birth control?”
While they do not charge users for shipping or for medication if it is already covered by their insurance, they do make money by billing insurance companies.
Part of what took Chang a year and a half to get the Pill Club off the ground was getting all the licensing in place. He had to go to every state board of pharmacy to make sure they were compliant with them regarding birth control, which thankfully has fewer restrictions than something like controlled substances. Beyond working with local pharmacies, the Pill Club also has a facility in Redwood City, which needs to be inspected. They also had to ensure that from the prescribing side, they were in compliance with every state they wanted to operate in.
When we asked what they do differently from competitors such as Nurx, which does the same thing and is an app, Chang says, “We are a pharmacy. It gives us a lot more options. We can prescribe on your behalf and continue to work with your physician. When your refills are coming low, you don’t need to change your providers.”
He also claims that the Pill Club has more than twice the variety of birth control that Nurx has, and because of the extra goodies they include in their packages — such as samples and discounts from organic companies in tampons, condoms, and lube, among other things — “We try hard to make the experience fun.”