Millions of dollars are being set aside in Virginia’s two-year state budget for a new pilot program. It aims to increase access to a certain kind of birth control for woman who might otherwise not be able to afford it. 

They are called LARCs, or long-acting reversible contraceptives. They include devices like IUDs or implants that can last up to 12 years. 

Dr. Shanthi Ramesh is the affiliate medical director at the Virginia League of Planned Parenthood. 

“LARC methods tend to work really well for busy young women,” said Ramesh. “So a lot of graduate students, working professionals, moms, maybe people who are working multiple jobs for whom taking a birth control pill or getting a shot every three months is just not an option.”

Virginia Commonwealth University student Malena Llanos recently decided to move from birth control pills to a LARC implant in her arm. She said it only took about 30 minutes. 

“I’m a student. I don’t want to have a child right now. I’m about to be a senior. I have plans to do things for the next ten years that I don’t think I could see myself having a child and doing those all at the same time,” said Llanos. 

Ramesh said LARCs help women like Llanos plan their pregnancies, but they can also carry a high overhead cost. 

“For women who are uninsured or underinsured, the idea of paying anywhere between $250 to $1,000 out of pocket to have a device placed is just not feasible,” she said. 

That’s why Virginia is putting up the money to expand access. 

The pilot program will cost $3 million a year for the next two years. That money will be pulled from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant. 

It’ll target patients with incomes below 250 percent of the federal poverty line. 

Providers will be reimbursed for the insertion and removal of LARCs at Medicaid rates.

Ramesh believes, though the program comes at a cost, it will also be a cost-savings measure in the long run. 

“Other states have done similar initiatives, like Colorado for example, and seen huge decreases in unintended pregnancy rates and overall Medicaid savings,” she said. “When women who are on Medicaid have healthy, planned pregnancies, they have better outcomes for the mother and the baby.”

As part of the pilot program, The Virginia Department of Health will measure the effectiveness of the project. They will take a look at things like impacts on morbidity, reduction in abortions and unplanned pregnancies. In addition, the department will also be tasked with collecting data on the number of women served who also sought treatment for substance use disorder. 

To read more about the pilot program in the biennial budget, click HERE and look for F1. and 2. 

Gov. Ralph Northam is expected to formally sign off on the budget Thursday afternoon.