The Cost of Plan B


Now that emergency contraception is widely available over-the-counter, Plan B pills can be easily purchased at any local pharmacy. In addition to pharmacies, you may also choose to obtain the medication from a local family planning clinic such as Planned Parenthood.

Package of Plan B
Package of Plan B (Image: Scott Olson/Getty Images News/Getty Images)

About Plan B

The over-the-counter availability of emergency contraception has revolutionized the way way women view birth control. The emergency contraception pill, known by its brand name "Plan B," is a simple dose of tiny pills. It either prevents the release of the woman's egg, depending on the timing of her menstrual cycle, or the implantation of an early fertilized egg, thus preventing unintended pregnancy.

Whether a broken condom, a bad decision or a missed birth control pill, emergency contraception provides an excellent method of pregnancy prevention if the pill is taken within 72 hours of unprotected or questionably protected sex.

Plan B emergency contraception is available at a variety of locations.

Plan B and Prescription pill bottles
Plan B and Prescription pill bottles (Image: Scott Olson/Getty Images News/Getty Images)


The easiest way to obtain emergency contraception is by heading to a local pharmacy. While Plan B is available without a prescription, you'll still have to ask the pharmacist or his assistant directly. To obtain emergency contraception in this fashion, you'll need to be at least 18 years old and have valid, state-issued identification. You will also need to sign for the product upon receiving it. On average, you can expect to pay between $25 and $50 for one dose of Plan B at a retail pharmacy. Since the pills are non-prescription, your insurance will not cover emergency contraception.

Pharmacy in Illinois
Pharmacy in Illinois (Image: Tim Boyle/Getty Images News/Getty Images)

Family Planning Clinics

In addition to ordering Plan B from your local pharmacy, you may also wish to obtain it from your neighborhood family planning clinic, if you have one. Non-profits like Planned Parenthood, as well as most abortion clinics, offer emergency contraception to all patrons.

At a family planning clinic, you can expect to either pay a flat rate (Planned Parenthood charges between $10 and $70 depending on location) or a fee based on a sliding scale that takes your income into consideration. This sliding fee scale is subsidized by a federal government program called Title V funding. If you are unemployed and have dependents at home, it is likely that you will will qualify for a discount on your Plan B. While most clinics won't give the product away for free, these federally funded family planning centers often implement a policy that prohibits the discrimination against patrons in regards to race, age, sex, religion or disability, and more importantly, inability to pay. If you need emergency contraception but cannot afford to pay anything for it, you will most likely not be turned away empty-handed.

Planned Parenthood supporters outside clinic
Planned Parenthood supporters outside clinic (Image: Stephen Brashear/Getty Images News/Getty Images)

Insurance Coverage

One additional option is to obtain a prescription for Plan B from your family physician. While a prescription is not required, many insurance companies will cover emergency contraception if a prescription is ordered from a doctor. Check with your insurance company to verify coverage of Plan B with a prescription. If insurance covers the emergency contraception, you can expect to pay only what you do for a prescription copay, typically between $5 and $30, depending on your policy.

Doctor writing prescription
Doctor writing prescription (Image: Dynamic Graphics/Creatas/Getty Images)

Important Information

The most critical issue regarding emergency contraception is the timing in which the pills must be taken. While the patient has up to 72 hours after unprotected sex to take Plan B, the general understanding about the pills is that they must be taken as soon as possible.

It is not advised that you intentionally wait to take the pills, as they become less effective over time. Plan B is up to 95 percent effective when taken within 24 hours, but that rate quickly falls as time goes on.

Since cost can be a barrier between taking Plan B on time and not taking it on time, evaluate your situation and make a decision that will result in receiving the pills as quickly as possible. Waiting an extra day or two to get Plan B just to save just a few dollars is not worth an unplanned pregnancy, so plan accordingly.

Package of Plan B
Package of Plan B (Image: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images)

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