Giving U.S. female military veterans a year's supply of birth control pills would reduce their risk of unwanted pregnancies and lower health care costs, a new study finds.
The researchers also found that the health care cost savings would more than outweigh the expense of providing birth control pills in larger quantities.
Specifically, among the approximately 24,000 women receiving birth control pills from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), offering a year's supply of pills would prevent 583 unintended pregnancies and save the agency about $2 million a year in prenatal, birth and newborn care costs.
Currently, the VA doesn't offer the option of dispensing a 12-month supply, but 17 states and the District of Columbia laws require insurers to cover a year's supply of contraceptives.
"Medication dispensing limits are thought to be cost-saving because you're not wasting pills and medicines that people aren't going to use," said lead author Dr. Colleen Judge-Golden, from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Medicine.
"Our analysis shows that concerns about wastage of contraceptive pills are overshadowed by the potential consequences of missed refills, and especially of unintended pregnancies," Judge-Golden said in a university news release.
VA data shows that 43% of female veterans who receive three-month increments of birth control pills have at least one gap between refills over the course of a year of use.
Women outside the VA who get a year's worth of birth control pills at a time have fewer gaps and fewer unintended pregnancies, according to the study authors.
"We see extended contraceptive dispensing as a win-win, promoting women's health and women's autonomy to use birth control as they decide, while also being economically sustainable for the VA," Judge-Golden said.
The study was published recently in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.
The U.S. Office on Women's Health has more about birth control methods.