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22nd Jul 2022

Free contraception for women aged 17-25 will be available from September

Free contraception

Welcome news for so many women.

The Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) (No. 2) Act 2022, which provides for the free contraception scheme – as well as the abolishment of in-patient charges for children under 16 in all public hospitals – was signed into law yesterday by President Michael D Higgins.

The changes, which will come into effect in ‘early September’ this year, have been on the cards for some time, and will be welcome news to many.

The Government said it recognised that the cost of accessing contraception, particularly for those who may still be dependent on parents or guardians or who may be just above the means-tested thresholds for the medical card and GP Visit cards, “may impose a significant barrier to access”.

Costs for the pill and similar repeat prescription contraceptives are estimated at €65-100 every six months, and the initial costs of long-acting reversible contraception, including consultation, purchase of the device and fitting, typically range from €250-€320.

If the costs of removal are also included, the costs rise to €340-€470.

‘Easing the financial burden’

Currently, in regards to hospital charges for the under 16s, there is a hospital charge of €80 per night up to a maximum of 10 nights in a 12-month period, while medical card holders and some others are exempt.

“Abolishing acute in-patient hospital charges for children under 16 is focused towards easing the financial burden of parents or guardians when bringing their child to hospital for in-patient care,” said Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly.

“Free contraception is a cost-effective measure, reducing both crisis pregnancy and termination of pregnancy rates.”

He added:

“Given that the costs of prescription contraception are typically faced by women, the scheme will impact positively on gender equity, reducing costs for women, but also benefitting their partners and families, starting with women aged 17-25.”

The scheme will cover the full cost of prescription contraception, the Government said.

This includes the cost of:

– Necessary consultations with medical professionals to discuss suitable contraception options with individual patients and to enable prescription of same.

– Fitting and/or removal of various types of long-acting reversible contraception (LARCs) plus any necessary checks, by medical professionals certified to fit/remove same.

– Providing the wide range of contraceptive options currently available to medical card holders, which will also be available through this scheme, including contraceptive injections, implants, IUS and IUDs (coils), the contraceptive patch and ring, and various forms of oral contraceptive pill, including emergency contraception.

Currently, those with a medical card have access to most forms of contraception at minimal cost, subject only to the prescription charge of €1.50 per item, up to a maximum of €15 per month.