B.C. budget to pay for free contraception — a first in Canada
Starting April 1, B.C. will become the first jurisdiction in Canada to make prescription contraception free to all residents, according to the provincial budget unveiled Tuesday.
Funding of $119 million over the next three years will allow full coverage for prescription contraception. It includes oral hormone pills, contraceptive injections, intrauterine hormonal devices, subdermal implants, and Plan B, also known as the morning-after pill.
While only representing a small portion of billions of dollars in spending for health initiatives, including nearly $1 billion for mental health and addictions treatments, Finance Minister Katrine Conroy said it was a priority for her government to help residents have control over their reproductive rights.
"All too often, these fundamental rights are under attack," she said in her speech presenting the budget. "Not here in B.C."
'Win for health, win for gender equity'
The province said that for a person who pays $25 a month for hormonal pills, the new free plan could save them as much as $10,000 over their lifetime.
"As the mother of two daughters and five granddaughters, I know the effect this is going to have on people's lives in our province," said Conroy.
"This is a win for health, and it's a win for gender equity in our province."
Nikki Hill helped lead a United Way campaign for free menstrual products, and in May last year was appointed to lead a government-funded task force over the issue. She praised the free contraception initiative.
"There's such a direct link between period poverty and menstrual health, so the ability now to actually have accessible contraception is such an incredible step forward," she said.
"I think of people who are facing poverty who are trying to deal with complex menstrual health and so we're happy."
WATCH | B.C. Period Poverty Task Force Co-Chair praises contraception funding:
To access free contraception, government officials said starting in April, residents covered under MSP must get a prescription from a family physician, then take it to their pharmacist with their MSP card to get it filled.
However, starting as early as May, residents will be able to get a contraception prescription directly from their pharmacist as part of an announcement last fall expanding the scope of practice for pharmacists.
The free contraception funding in B.C.'s budget is part of a host of measures aimed at helping people cope with an affordability crisis in B.C.
They include a renter's tax credit, increases to shelter rates as part of disability assistance payments and an increase to the B.C. Family Benefit and B.C. Climate Action Tax Credit.