Testimony from:

Courtney Joslin, Commercial Freedom
Fellow, the R Street Institute

Marc Hyden, State Government Affairs
Director, the R Street Institute


February 18, 2019

House Public Health, Welfare and Labor

Chairman and members of the committee,

Today, 10 states and the District of Columbia allow pharmacists to
prescribe hormonal contraception to patients. These states are Tennessee, Utah,
New Hampshire, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, California, Maryland, New Mexico
and Hawaii.

Expanding pharmacists’ scope-of-practice to include dispensing birth
control without a prescription permits them to perform medical services that they
are well-equipped to administer. A typical doctor’s visit to obtain birth
control includes a self-reported medical questionnaire, a blood pressure test
and a quick chat with the doctor about which types of contraceptives are right
for the patient. Pharmacists can expertly perform all of these activities.

Furthermore, expanding the number of birth control providers increases
access to safe and effective contraception, which is desperately needed. In
2017, Arkansas led
the nation in teenage pregnancy rates
, and in 2011, 55
percent of all pregnancies in Arkansas
were unintended, which is one of the
highest rates in the country. This is due, in part, to limited access to
doctors, especially in rural areas. In fact, Arkansas’ physician-to-population
is one of the lowest in the country. Put simply, increasing the
number of health care providers increases the number of accessible avenues to obtain
birth control.

Each unintended pregnancy strains mothers and families, and can also
increase the taxpayer burden. In 2010 alone, the public funded medical expenses
associated with over 72
percent of unplanned pregnancies in Arkansas
, costing taxpayers over $328
million — of which the state of Arkansas funded nearly $62 million. Allowing
pharmacy access could significantly reduce the number of unintended pregnancies
and the amount of tax dollars spent on them.

Over the past several years, the pharmacy access model has gained
traction in many states, and medical professionals have largely endorsed the
idea of providing easier access to birth control. In fact, the American College
of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has stated that birth
control should be available over-the-counter
. This is because it is safe
and effective, and because women should be able to choose the method they
prefer without the unnecessary intermediation of a doctor.

Similarly, the pharmacy access model proposed in HB 1164 has shown
great promise. If enacted, it will reduce unnecessary regulation, broaden
consumer choice, provide better healthcare access for women and could save
millions of taxpayer dollars. Most importantly, this can all be accomplished
without increasing risks. Thus, it is vital that the Legislature give HB 1164
serious consideration.

Thank you for your time.

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