DeMint Calls No-Cost Birth Control Pricing Fix an “Earmark”

How can a technical fix in legislation that costs the federal government nothing be smeared as an "earmark?"

When it will restore three million low-income and college women’s ability to access affordable birth control. 

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) is attacking a cost-neutral provision in the
omnibus appropriations bill that would restore the ability of pharmaceutical
companies to offer nominally priced drugs to college and university
health centers and family planning clinics.  Clinics and university
health centers had done so for years before the Deficit Reduction Act
enacted in 2007 inadvertently left them unable to do so.

DeMint’s amendment calls the provision a "funding earmark for Planned
Parenthood Federation of America."  First, it’s not an earmark. Second,
it enables college and university health centers, in addition to
providers like Planned Parenthood who work with low-income women, to
distribute birth control more cheaply.

Does DeMint care about the government’s money, or does he care about withholding from low-income and college women the ability to prevent pregnancies they don’t want?

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  • invalid-0

    Emily, I really have to make sure I’m understanding here. I’ve read several pieces on the DeMint amendment, but I’m still not clear on exactly what’s being done. From reading your post, here’s what I’m gathering. Is this correct?

    In 2007, some legislative error stripped the right of pharmaceutical companies to sell birth control pills to family-planning clinics and university health centers for little money. The omnibus bill would restore that right.

    Does the government set the prices for pharmaceutical companies? I suppose what I don’t understand is how this error happened in the first place and what role the government played in that.

  • emily-douglas

    Good question, Brandi. (The origins of this legislative blunder are not often rehashed in coverage of the matter, I agree!) Yes, the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, enacted in 2007, eliminated the ability of pharmaceutical companies to provide nominally-priced birth control to health care centers for college and low-income women. How was it able to do that? A Planned Parenthood release explains, "In 2005, Congress passed the Deficit Reduction Act, which tightened regulations about who was eligible for nominally priced drugs. In doing so, Congress inadvertently cut off college health centers and other safety-net providers from obtaining birth control at a low cost. As a result, since 2007, birth control prices have skyrocketed. College women now routinely pay $50 and more a month for birth control at their college health clinic, when they had been used to paying $5–$10 a month."

    So, while the government does not directly set drug prices, it sets standards for what health care entities are permitted to obtain and sell nominally-priced drugs.