On Nov. 9, I was one of the many U.S. women who googled “IUD” faster than Trump could tweet about his election victory. However, when I saw the price tag on that magical little tool that lives in women’s uteruses—up to $1,000 without health insurance—I thought twice.
Then I came across Nurx, a San Francisco-based startup whose app has been billed the “Uber of birth control.” Swap the car ride for pills, rings, or patches, and that’s exactly what it is. At the tap of a few icons on a cellphone, patients can skip the doctor’s appointment and get their medication sent straight to their doors.
“Our country’s medical system doesn’t always work very well for patients,” Dr. Jessica Knox, Nurx’s medical director, told the Daily Dot. “We sort of hold women hostage.”
Knox is referring to the annual doctor’s visit women have to arrange so a professional can chat with them for a few minutes, write a quick prescription, and send them on their way. This may seem like an easy task, but it’s a huge barrier to access—especially for disabled women, women who live in remote areas, and working women who can’t afford to take time off.
This would be, for example, a woman like Melissa Calhoun, a resident in remote Upstate New York. For her, Nurx is the reason she’s on birth control. When Calhoun heard about the company, she had been off the pill for four years because of the inconvenience of driving more than 20 miles to a clinic or pharmacy. And now she gets her month’s supply of Ortho Tri-Cyclen delivered every month for free with insurance. “So far, it’s been absolutely wonderful,” Calhoun said.
Getting your own supply is simple. Download Nurx’s app or access its website to create an account. Answer a few questions about your medical history and medication preferences (“What kind of birth control do you prefer?” “Will you be skipping placebo pills to avoid having periods?”). Enter your insurance information if it applies, and you’ll have the medication within a few days.
Nurx primarily communicates by sending messages to patients through the app, offering counsel and frequent updates on deliveries. Bonus: It’s free. Double Bonus: It’s probably the easiest way to slide into a doctor’s DMs.
And by “free,” I mean free for insured women. Expenses depend on the medication and vary based on birth control type and insurance plan. No insurance? Shell out as little as $15 a month for the pill. If you change your mind any step of the way, you can return your package unopened and go on about your life. No doctor’s visits, no time off work, no problem.
If you’re skeptical like I am, you might be wondering how this setup is legit. But the logistics that keep the company’s costs so low require Nurx to take a cut from insurance companies and charge a fee to the independent pharmacies it uses to fill prescriptions.
And with President Trump and Republican congressmen still looking to repeal the Affordable Care Act and gut federal funding for Planned Parenthood, low birth control prices are more valuable than ever.
Right now, the Affordable Care Act allows more than half of women in the exchange to pay $0 out of pocket for their pills, injectables, IUDs, and rings. If Republicans are successful in making sweeping changes to women’s health coverage, uninsured women could spend between $600 and $2,000 a year for the most common brands of the pill, between $1,000 and $1,800 for annual supply of NuvaRing, plus hundreds in doctor’s visits for prescriptions—this is especially true if affordable clinics like Planned Parenthood lose funding and have to close.
With Nurx, though, birth control remains at a low cost and you still don’t have to dole out extra time and money for a doctor’s visit. Fifteen dollars for a month’s supply of Ortho-Tri-Cyclen that could otherwise run you $130 sounds pretty good.
Nurx certainly hasn’t ignored the urgency for access after the election, either, offering free birth control using monthly promotional codes, such as “alternative facts” for February, and “Nasty Woman” for March, International Women’s Month.
“We believe women should be able to access their birth control on their own terms,” a Nurx press release said. “This position is in stark contrast with the current administration, which appears to be focused on the opposite.”
Too good to be true? Kind of.
Nurx is only available in 13 markets right now: New York, California, Virginia, Washington, Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania, Illinois, Florida, Michigan, New Jersey, Minnesota, Missouri, and Texas. The hangup on expanding further lies in the differing telemedicine laws between states. According to Knox, some states require medical providers to use the phone, a video chat, or even in-person conversations, to be able to offer their services.
With so much politically up in the air for women’s health right now, Nurx is hoping to keep it simple—and, most importantly, safe.
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to include a wider range of birth control costs without insurance and the expansion of markets Nurx serves.