On January 4th, Congress swung open its doors and the fools rushed in to deal 2017's first critical blows to the Affordable Care Act. Those who stand to lose the most from repealing the law include old people, poor people, and the usual unluckiest 50 percent of the population: women. Getting rid of penalties for those without insurance and cutting funds for the expanded coverage through Medicaid (which currently helps folks living near the poverty line get health care) would be a death blow for Obamacare, which means over 20 million people are at risk for losing health insurance. Many more than that would be saddled with higher prices for prescriptions and preventative care screenings—including mammograms. And of course, there's birth control.
Women now have a few options. They can stock up on contraception and hope they've snagged enough of the morning-after pill to outlast the Trumpocalypse. In previous years (and for now, still), they could turn to Planned Parenthood, a trusted partner for women in need of birth control or consultations about their health. Sadly, the organization is once again the target of Paul Ryan's deepest, darkest fantasies, which is why the Speaker of the House has vowed to cut its federal funding as one of the first steps to dismantling Obamacare.
Why Republicans feel so strongly about an organization that spends 45 percent of its resources testing for and treating sexually transmitted diseases, 31 percent on contraception, and just 3 percent on abortion services is a whole other story (is the GOP pro-chlamydia? Or, just anti-sex?). But it's a supply-and-demand economy here in the US of A, which means the startup world is already lending a hand to women in the aftermath of this election cycle.
Let's throw it back a bit—a #tbt, if you will: If you're one us fortunate uterus-havers, you might remember the first time you checked out at your pharmacy with a one- or three-month pack of birth control pills and didn't have to pay a dime. Pills that used to cost upwards of $35 or $40 a pack cost nothing now. As you headed out the door, the mental Thanks, Obama that coursed through your body was loud enough to make you feel like POTUS was doing you a personal solid by not charging you for yet another thing you have to pony up for as a woman.
With the repeal of Obamacare, free birth control is likely to be a relic of the past. That's where startups like Nurx, Maven Clinic, and Lemonaid come in to tackle a two-fold issue: fighting against the repeal of the Obamacare provision that requires free birth control, and dealing with the reality of millions of uninsured Americans who still need their prescriptions.
On December 19th, the day the electoral college confirmed Donald Trump as the next President of the United States, Nurx offered free birth control to women in Washington DC, New York, California, and Washington state for a week. All users had to do was enter "Donald Trump" as the promo code at check-out (pleasantly reminiscent of the influx of donations Planned Parenthood received in the name of VP-elect and Lord Voldemort stunt-double Mike Pence). The Silicon Valley startup launched in 2015 with the aim of making it less stressful for women to get oral contraceptives (and yes, it is still stressful for many women).
Women without health insurance could obtain prescriptions for as low as $14 a month, and the app has expanded to provide users with Truvada for PRep, a game-changer in the fight against HIV. Best of all, Nurx delivers—so it's just like Seamless, but you get the added benefit of preventing an unwanted pregnancy, a perk your local sushi place has yet to offer you. Oh also, if you're still on a parent's insurance, Nurx won't notify the insurance holder that a birth control prescription has been attained, which is a wonderful part of Planned Parenthood's legacy the app is carrying on.
While Nurx focuses on HIV prevention and birth control on the cheap for folks without prescriptions, Lemonaid is geared toward people without insurance (a tally that is sure to rise if the GOP successfully does away with Obamacare). For women, the site is a dependable way to get birth control and drugs to treat UTIs. And for anyone (man or woman, really) who's ever experienced the unique burning, anxiety, and utter misery of a urinary tract infection, the service is a godsend. The site promises a two-hour turnaround, and then sends the prescription to your pharmacy of choice to pick up. Lemonaid also offers fast prescription pickup for birth control pills, and for men, erectile dysfunction medication, which I guess is the male equivalent of needing to get ahead of a life-threatening kidney infection or stay in control of your reproductive system.
There's also Maven Clinic, which is entirely women-centric and seems designed to cater to the reality of thousands of women who spend hours scrolling through WebMD with questions about their potential yeast infections. Maven connects you with a qualified health practitioner or directs you to its forums, which are populated with said professionals addressing patients with questions similar to yours. The services cost anywhere from $18 for a ten-minute appointment with a nurse practitioner or midwife to $35 for the same amount of time with a doctor.
Any prescriptions that your practitioner gives you are sent to a pharmacy for pickup after your appointment, which are an additional fee to the visit, making Maven one of the pricier options for women in need of care. That said, $35 for some face time (literally, the app uses a FaceTime-esque service for patients to connect with doctors) to figure out what that burning sensation in your urethra is about is a lot less than what it would have cost without insurance.
Some say the fuss about women losing the right to make decisions about their own bodies is unfounded, dramatic, and out of the realm of possibility. If the first days of 2017 are any indication of what's to come after Inauguration Day, those people are probably wrong, and should be ignored at all costs. These startups are giving women the opportunity to take their health into their own hands, even if the government decides that they don't deserve insurance. Sign on, tell friends who you think are at risk of losing coverage, and most importantly, don't click this link again. It'll only remind you of the unprecedented levels of stupid that American women are dealing with this time around.