San Francisco Health Plan First Health Plan in California to Cover Pharmacist Counseling Cost for Emergency Contraception

Member Benefit Provides Important Family Planning Option to Women

Jul 31, 2002, 01:00 ET from San Francisco Health Plan

    SAN FRANCISCO, July 31 /PRNewswire/ -- San Francisco Health Plan (SFHP)
 today announced that it has become the first community health plan in
 California to cover the cost of Pharmacist counseling for Emergency
 Contraception (EC).  By covering this cost, SFHP will provide easier access
 to, and quality information about Emergency Contraception to female Members
 -- 58 percent of its total membership population.  The new benefit will be
 available on August 1, and will be implemented at all pharmacies in the SFHP
 network that have trained and certified Pharmacists.
     SFHP's benefit is in response to a California law passed by Governor Gray
 Davis in January 2002, that allows women to get EC directly from
 specially-trained pharmacists without first needing to go to a doctor or
 clinic.  The Emergency Contraception counseling program is designed to further
 increase dialogue between Members and Pharmacists, and is offered through
 SFHP's "Positive Outcomes" program, a 2-year old effort to compensate
 Pharmacists for the additional time they spend on SFHP Member education for
 conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and heart failure.
     "The most important thing we can do for our Members is provide the
 benefits and the counseling needed to get the health tools they deserve to
 make the most responsible choices for their bodies," said Dr. Karen Smith,
 Medical Director of SFHP.  "For a lower-income family who may struggle to make
 ends meet, an unintended pregnancy can adversely change their lives.  Having
 complete access to Emergency Contraception is a simple, obvious solution."
     Women who go to a pharmacy to obtain Emergency Contraception are usually
 charged a $20 counseling fee in addition to the cost of the drug.  Families
 covered by San Francisco Health Plan's Medi-Cal or Healthy Families programs
 come from working or lower-income families, and often do not have an extra $20
 to pay out-of-pocket for counseling.
     "We are happy to see organizations like San Francisco Health Plan go out
 of their way to increase their Members' access to family planning tools like
 Emergency Contraception," said Dian Harrison, CEO of Planned Parenthood Golden
 Gate.  "We know that removing the burden of the additional counseling fee
 enables lower-income women to more easily obtain EC and take an important step
 toward reducing unintended pregnancies."
     Even with the many birth control options available today, no method is 100
 percent effective.  There are about 3 million unintended pregnancies each year
 in the US, and more than half of these happen to women who are using a regular
 method of contraception.  Experts say that wider access to Emergency
 Contraception could reduce the number of unintended pregnancies in the US each
 year by 700,000.
     About San Francisco Health Plan
     San Francisco Health Plan (SFHP) is a licensed community health plan
 providing affordable health coverage to low and moderate-income families
 residing in San Francisco.  SFHP was designed for and by the residents it
 serves -- many of whom would not be able to otherwise obtain health care for
 themselves or their families.  Through SFHP, members have access to a full
 spectrum of medical services, including preventive care, hospitalization,
 prescription drugs, family planning, and substance abuse programs.  SFHP's
 mission is to provide superior, affordable health care that emphasizes
 prevention and promotes healthy living, with the goal of improving the quality
 of life for the people of San Francisco.
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SOURCE San Francisco Health Plan