The Quest for Free Birth Control: Part 2

I called my OBGYN today, and talked to a very helpful nurse.  She said that Norethindrone-Ethinyl Estradiol is not as nice as Generess Fe, and asked me if some other pills were on the list.  She ended up putting me on Apri, which is apparently very cheap normally anyway, and is indeed on the list.

So, I drove over to CVS, and it rang up as $0.00!  Success at last!

It seems to me like a major problem is a lack of communication on this matter between insurance companies, doctors, and patients.  I’m sure most of that is just because the Affordable Healthcare Act is so new.  Here’s what I’d recommend to anyone looking to get themselves some free slut pills birth control:

1. Talk to your insurance provider.  Call ’em up or go on their website.  Get your hands on a list of what birth controls they can get you copay-free.  Note that this will mean you’ll have to switch to a generic brand, if you’re not on one already.

2. Take the list with you to your doctor’s appointment.  Your doctor will be able to talk to you about what birth control suits your needs or is most similar to what you’re already on.  Doctors tend to have a good idea of how expensive different types of birth control are, but, again, since the Affordable Healthcare Act is so new, they probably will not be able to tell you what will be free off the top of their heads, so it’s a good idea to have the list available for reference.

3. Get yo’self some free oral contraceptives.  They taste like victory.

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The Quest for Free Birth Control

Like many women out there, I was under the impression that once the birth control mandate went into effect, Obama was going to show up at my door every month with a pack of free birth control and a bouquet of roses.  BUT OH HOW WRONG I WAS.

When I first found out that there was still a high copay on my birth control, I poked around on the internet.  Full disclosure: I know nothing about health insurance.  I am lucky enough to still be on my parents’ plan.  I found that the free birth control thing only applied to plans that were formed or renewed after August 1, 2012.  I asked my mother and discovered that my plan didn’t renew until the first of the new year, so I stopped worrying.

Today, I went in to ask about getting a refill, and was told that this month’s supply would cost the same as last month’s.  I accepted this.  My birth control is called Generess Fe, which I had assumed was the generic brand, as my OBGYN gave it to me alongside some LoLoestrin Fe, which I assumed was the non-generic, though I noticed some differences between them (LoLoestrin has two different types of pills plus the reminder pills, while Generess just has the one type plus the reminder.  Also, Generess is chewable.).  I really like it.  It’s a good one.

I went home and once again attempted to find a website that could explain to me why I couldn’t get this pill copay-free, and I found this very helpful graphic:

http://www.buzzfeed.com/annanorth/can-you-get-copay-free-birth-control

According to that graphic, I should be able to get this for free.

So my mother and I called the insurance company.  He said that Generess Fe is not on the list of things that are covered through our plan, and said he’d email us the list.  He never did, but I eventually managed to find it on the insurance website.  He’s right, Generess Fe is not on the list, but Norethindrone-Ethinyl Estradiol, which is the main drug of Generess Fe (minus the iron).  My mom decided that Generess Fe must not be the generic, so I called up CVS to request the generic, and had the following conversation:

Me: Hi, I was in there a couple hours ago to renew a prescription, and I’d like to switch to the generic.
Pharmacist: (after getting my information)  That is the generic.
Me: Okay, well, I was just on the phone with the health insurance company, and according to this list, a form of that drug should be covered under Obamacare.
Pharmacist: It is covered, it’s just a high copay.
Me: Yeah, I should be able to get it with no copay.
Pharmacist: I don’t understand what you want.  As far as I’m aware, the Obama health insurance didn’t actually have an effect on any of this.
Me: Actually, the birth control mandate went into effect on August 1st for new plans, and since my insurance plan renewed at the beginning of the year, I should be able to get this for free.
Pharmacist: It is covered, though.  This went through your insurance.  There’s a difference between “covered” and “copay”.

I didn’t like the way he was talking to me, so I said “uh huh” a lot until he hung up.  My mom and I called the insurance company again.

Insurance Lady: Generess Fe isn’t the generic.
My Mom: Then what is?
Lady: There is no generic equivalent.
Mom: Okay, but Norethindrone-Ethinyl Estradiol is on your list.
Lady: But Generess Fe isn’t.
Mom: Right.  So how do we get Norethindrone-Ethinyl Estradiol?
Lady: There is no generic for Generess Fe.
Mom: …then why is the generic name for it on your list?
Lady: Let me pull up the list.  Okay, Norethindrone-Ethinyl Estradiol isn’t all of Generess Fe.  You’d need a new prescription.
Mom: Then let’s do that.

Of course, all of this took about half an hour, and by the time I looked up the OBGYN’s number, I discovered that they close early on Fridays, so I was 15 minutes too late.  They’re gone until Monday, and I told CVS I’d pick up the Generess Fe tomorrow, so my mom wanted to cancel the refill until we talk to the doctor.  I made her call CVS back, because I did not want to talk to that pharmacist.  He apparently gave her a hard time about it.

So, I’ll resume this saga on Monday.  Allow me to sum up by saying: this is ridiculous.  I have yet to hear of anyone who has successfully gotten an oral contraceptive with no copay.  What the fuck.

Gender

I just read through this: http://itspronouncedmetrosexual.com/2011/11/list-of-cisgender-privileges/

and looked at this: http://itspronouncedmetrosexual.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Genderbread-2.1.jpg

and I can’t help thinking about my own gender identity and expression.  Not so much now as when I was growing up.  Let me start off by saying that I am biologically female and have always identified as such.  I know that I have not suffered the stigmas and hardships that non-cis people face every day.  I know that I am very fortunate.  I intend for this post to be more a reflection of how gender expression has affected my life than for it to be any kind of “I know how non-cis folks must feel” post.  Because I am very lucky.  This is more about middle school being a hard time for me than about gender identity being a constant source of judgement and confusion in my life.  No offense is meant to anyone who for any reason might ever read this.

Okay, so.  When I was in middle school, I often got mistaken for a boy.  I never fully understood why. It’s true that I’ve always been tall, but middle school girls tend to be taller than middle school boys.  I had noticeable breasts by 7th grade.  My hair was never shorter than chin-length.  I didn’t wear dresses a lot, but I often wore form-fitting shirts in colors that most people considered to be “feminine.”  I mean, look, I was a weird kid.  I wasn’t a pretty middle schooler.  My mom didn’t want me to get my eyebrows done or wear makeup or spend a lot of money on clothes.  I didn’t know how to make myself look the way society told me I should look.  I had a unibrow.  Here are instances that I remember where my gender was misinterpreted or called into question:

1) In 7th grade, we had a substitute in math class.  He was going over answers to our homework.  I raised my hand to give an answer, and he checked the seating chart to find my name.  He immediately said, “Are you guys switching seats on me?  Because that doesn’t look like a ‘(my obviously female name)’ to me!”  I was mortified.  I couldn’t fully wrap my head around what had happened and what I had done to have failed to be…me.  How he was allowed to decide that I didn’t look like me.  The rest of the class quickly jumped in to assure him that I was, in fact, “(my name),” and he let me answer the question.  No apology.  If that happened to me now, I would have lectured him and left the room.  I cannot stand adults who act like it’s okay to embarrass children for any reason.  This incident has always stuck with me.  Even now, about ten years later, if people are looking at me, I’m never sure if I should think they’re checking me out or that they’re trying to figure out my gender.

2) In 8th grade, we had another substitute in another math class.  I handed in an assignment and he said, “Thank you, sir.”  I didn’t say anything.  I sat down and said to my friend, “I think he just called me ‘sir’.”  “What?  That doesn’t make sense.  Look at what you’re wearing!”  I was wearing a tight-fitting pinkish purpleish shirt.  I felt very self-conscious for the rest of the day.

3) Later that year, a couple other classmates and I went to compete in a regional science fair.  These two boys, who were younger than us, kept following me around and harassing me.  “Are you a boy-girl?” one asked.  “No, she’s a girl-girl,” a classmate who I wasn’t very close with responded.  (I was so grateful to her for that.  The confirmation that everyone in our class wasn’t calling me a boy behind my back was just what I needed.)  We were wearing name tags, so they knew my name.  They kept calling to me, making jokes about being in love with me.  They did this once in front of one of their mothers.  She smiled and made some kind of comment about me being out of their league.  She did not understand that they were insulting me.

These incidents have had lasting impact on me.  I used to have dreams that I would suddenly discover that I had a tiny penis in addition to my vagina that I’d never noticed.  Every time I’ve learned about any kind of gender/sex irregularity, I look it up on the internet to see if it’s something that I might have.  I have a hormonal imbalance that causes me to grow thicker/darker facial and body hair that began to manifest itself in high school.  It is very difficult to be a girl with facial hair.  Even when it’s “taken care of”, I’m terrified that someone will know.  Bearded women are made fun of on TV programs.  A friend made a joke about me having facial hair once, and didn’t understand why I got so mad until I finally calmed down enough to explain it to him.  (He of course had no idea that I had more hair than I was supposed to and apologized and we all grew from the experience but it was still quite painful for me.)  I feel like I constantly have to prove to people that I am a girl.  I was talking recently to a guy I’m interested in about shaving legs, and about how I like shaving my legs but I don’t like feeling like I HAVE to shave my legs.  He told me to just stop doing it for a while.  I realized that I can’t.  I never want to do anything that might bring my gender into question.  This, of course, sounds completely irrational to me, but it’s been built into me for so long.  I’m terrified that I might accidentally not be a girl.

So, back to the links I posted at the beginning.  I was thinking about gender identity and expression and wondering how to best phrase my experiences.  Does gender expression have to be conscious?  I identify as female.  I thought I was expressing myself as female.  I guess, really, it never occurred to me at that age that there was a way for me to be a girl but not to appear as a girl.

(Sidebar: I always have trouble with this, because I hate words like “masculine” and “feminine” and I just want to be like, EVERYONE DO WHATEVER THEY WANT AND DON’T WORRY ABOUT LABELING IT, but I know that that’s not how it works and that those words are a big part of many people’s identity and sense of self, so forgive me if I seem like I’m kinda going back and forth here.)

So, in conclusion: middle school sucks.  If it’s possible for me to be biologically female, think of myself as a girl, and still get bullied for not being “enough” of a girl, I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for someone who doesn’t have the same advantages I do.  I wish I could make more people understand that they don’t get to decide what it means for me to be me, or for anyone else to be themselves.  I work at a camp with 8-12 year olds right now, and I’m constantly trying to make them understand this.  Expressions like, “Boys will be boys,” “Man up!”, “Real men do/don’t ____,” and “Stop being such a girl!” are such a bigger part of their lexicon than I realized.  It’s frustrating.

Confrontation

So I just got home from a dinner with my family, and there was a guy outside our door.  At like 9:30 PM on a Friday night.  Which is kind of a weird time for someone to come by uninvited.  We only saw him from inside, so I don’t think he realized we had just gotten in or anything.  My dad opened the door before the guy could knock.  He was pretty non-threatening, probably in his mid-twenties, and had a bike.  My dad asked him what he wanted, and the guy attempted to make conversation instead of answering the question.  My dad threatened to call the police, and the guy left.  Now, my dad is notoriously bad at dealing politely with people he doesn’t want to deal with, and I try to make up for this by always thanking telemarketers for their time after I tell them I can’t give them any money.  It might also be worth noting that my house was broken into a little over a year ago, and my friend’s house was broken into this week while she was sleeping, so it was definitely bad timing for this kid.  My mom, sister, and I all voiced the opinion that he probably could’ve found a nicer way to get the guy to leave, and my dad disagreed.

And this got me thinking.  I never would have talked to that guy like that.  Even if I was scared of him.  Partly because I am a non-confrontational person, but also because women who talk to people (especially men) like that get called things like “bitch.”  If I had dealt with the situation in the same way as my father, the outcome might have been seriously different.  (Although it’s totally possible that this kid was just nice and harmless and trying to do his job and would have ridden away anyway.)  I might have gotten something like, “Calm down, lady, I’m just trying to talk to you.”  I feel like there’s a good chance I wouldn’t have been taken as seriously.  And that really bothers me.

Dear Girls

This:

http://iwastesomuchtime.com/on/?i=42873

Dear “Real Men,”

Go fuck yourselves.  Seriously?  Let’s look at this spin:

“Dear Girls,
Dressing modestly may get you a boyfriend, but only from some douchebag who thinks that all women should follow his arbitrary ideals of what a woman should be like.
Signed,
Me.
PS: Do whatever the fuck you want, my opinion doesn’t really matter.”

SERIOUSLY.  WHY do you get to tell women how they should and should not dress?  WHY do you think that their goal in life is to somehow end up with you?  Like you’re doing them some kinda huge fucking favor.  “Oh, these poor women, they probably don’t know that I don’t find revealing clothing unattractive!  I better tell the internet!  And I better use morally-loaded language like “immodestly.”  I HATE YOU.

Sincerely,
a woman who dresses however the fuck she wants, asshat.

Vaginas.

I’ve been thinking about this recently: http://jezebel.com/5921451/i-dont-care-about-your-stupid-vulva-its-all-vagina-to-me

Because here’s the thing.  I do think it’s important to teach distinction among different parts of the female anatomy.  It drives me crazy when people say things like, “I shave my vagina.”  It just bothers me.  Because, ow.  Mostly, I feel like it’s just a bad habit to get into, because younger people who haven’t had to learn all that anatomy yet (or who don’t have a sex ed program that will make them memorize what part’s the labia and what part’s the cervix) are more likely to have a warped view of how sex and female pleasure works.  And of how different women enjoy different things.

I was in Vagina Monologues not too long ago, and a character has a line about how unsexy the word “vagina” is, and she uses, “Darling, would you stroke my vagina?” as an example.  The use of “vagina” in that play bothers me a ton, actually, but this was the worst one for me.  I would NEVER say that.  Not even because I think it’s weird to refer to the whole general area by “vagina”, but because I think it’s seriously vague and possibly misleading.  That doesn’t tell your partner what you want AT ALL.

But, going back to the article I linked: I have less of a problem with “vagina” being used generally around Jezebel, because most of the people reading are interested in, and therefore more educated about, women’s issues.  And she makes a good point about writing humor, which is probably where a lot of the word choice in Vagina Monologue comes in, too.  I GET that.  I don’t really appreciate the author posting an article like that, but I understand her point.  I just also think it’s very important to teach specificity.

High Heels

Shit like this pisses me off:

http://iwastesomuchtime.com/on/?i=41560

There’s another one I’ve seen of a girl at a mirror putting on makeup, captioned with something along the lines of, “You did okay, God, but I have a better idea.”

Yes.  You’re right.  Women go through the effort of putting on makeup and walking in heels because there would be absolutely no negative consequences if they refused to do those things.  Silly women!  Always so concerned about their appearances instead of math or whatever I guess men are supposed to think about.

The bottom line is, women who appear the way that society prefers them to appear are more likely to be successful in a variety of activities.  This includes finding a partner, getting a job, making friends, whatever.  Look at this:

http://jezebel.com/5916586/forget-the-glass-ceiling-we-have-hemlines-to-consider

While the article raises all sorts of great points, the one I’m focusing on is that women still have to appear more feminine to succeed in male-dominated fields.  Women aren’t running around in heels all the time because they’re only concerned about looking good for men or looking better than any women in the area.  Often, women are wearing heels because they’re expected to.

And don’t get me wrong.  Heels and makeup can be fun.  I highly recommend that everyone of any gender buys some bright colors to smear all over their faces.  And I tend to prefer any face with eyeliner rather than without it.  But look: I always wear makeup to interviews.  I don’t always wear makeup to classes or social events.  (And as for heels, I’m in no place to comment, because I’m super tall and really ungraceful, and don’t think that wearing heels will actually make me appear more feminine.)

So, internet: shut up.