April 4th, 2012 | By Polypomp

An Odyssey in Health Insurance: Can a Guy Get Some Free Condoms Already?


Condoms, condoms, condoms

Welcome back to this week’s Courtgasm; the one time of your week where the law gets sexy, where powdered wigs meet hairless muffs, and double jeopardy is doubly penetrated.

In this post, does the healthcare reform of 2010 (now before the Supreme Court) cover free condoms? In general, where can a guy get some low cost condoms?

I just went down to my local Planned Parenthood earlier this week to restock on condoms. This brings back fond memories of my teen years, getting my first STI tests and beginning my ritual STI test panic (mentioned here).

Allow me, if I may, to take you on a strange journey. A strange journey, an odyssey if you will, of one man’s struggle to get some affordable condoms in a world of capitalist greed which prioritizes profits over people. Profits say it’s more profitable for my insurance company if I get HIV and buy retroviral drugs all my life, rather than save thousands of dollars by just buying condoms, not to mention save my life.

Plan A, Health Insurance: This was actually the idea of a nurse at Planned Parenthood. I think she had grown tired of me going in every other day (sometimes more often) to pick up four free condoms at a time. This was good for both of us because after two weeks of this I was really worried about developing a reputation as “That XL Condom Guy.”

You see, Planned Parenthood will give out four free condoms to a walk-in per visit, per day; if you get into their program you can get up to 48 free in a visit. I used to have a card from my teen years but I had lost it in a move.

When I went to my primary care physician, I think he actually stifled a laugh when I asked for a prescription for condoms. This was similar to when I asked my previous physician for a prescription for medical marijuana (a bad idea, it didn’t help me and it permanently put that note on my medical history). Perhaps it is just my terrible Aetna  insurance plan, but a quick Google search returns a slew of results that seem to point to this being an industry wide practice.

Plan B, Student Health Center/Condom Co-Op: While I was a San Jose State Student I could get 3 free prophylactics a day from their condom co-op, with a choice between numerous styles of condoms (even female condoms) and dental dams. When I discovered this, I cried. No joke, I dropped to my knees and cried. It was that amazing. Okay, maybe not that amazing, but pretty close.

I am no longer at San Jose State. After graduating, burdened with student loans like many of my peers I faced two options upon graduating: pay them off or defer. I chose not to pay them off and I chose something else: going back to school and a student’s deferment.

I had pretty high hopes for the condom co-op at my old community college in Santa Cruz, Cabrillo College. These hopes, like Icarus, plummeted to earth to be smashed upon the rocks of the Santa Cruz cliffs, like oh so many surfers and careless tourists.

It would seem Cabrillo’s student health center/condom co-op is ran by people who haven’t done as much research as yours truly, all they stock is spermicidal condoms. I avoid spermicide at all costs for the sake of my partner’s vagina’s, and for everyone’s increased safety from getting/spreading STIs. Some people love spermicide, but many of us don’t and it would be wonderful to have that option. However, in general, if you’re a student this should be your first stop for free/discount condoms.

Still, no luck. It shouldn’t be this hard for someone in a 1st world country, with insurance, to get the most common sense type of preventative care, that is to say, free-fucking-condoms. If spreading STIs  and teen pregnancy are national epidemics, like our government claims they are, maybe it is a result of their puritanical approach to birth control. Perhaps providing real information and easy access to birth control can be a Plan B to prohibition and propaganda, which have proven to be a losing approach (just like with the war on drugs).

Plan C, Planned Parenthood: Epic Win! While looking through a box I found my old Planned Parenthood teal card, which brings us to why I was in Planned Parenthood earlier this week, getting my 48 for-donations condoms. This time around the condoms even came with a nifty booklet on condom use complete with statistics on condom efficacy.

Planned Parenthood allows for a sliding scale from nothing at the low end, to whatever you feel like paying at the high end. Like any non-profit they live on our donations, especially after House Republicans voted to pull their funding. If you have a problem with Republican’s attack on reproductive rights, I would recommend doing something about it, such as writing a letter to your Congress person. President Obama claims to have Planned Parenthood’s back but we all remember what he said and did about the NDAA.

And of course, potentially the best birth control commercially available in the world is still not approved for use in the US. As a guy, I’d take a pinhole incision to the balls to know I couldn’t get people pregnant and potentially could not transmit HIV because the treatment makes my sperm explode. Honestly, I’ve gotten worse than pinholes when I decide to shave while drunk (never a good idea). This article also links to a petition which discusses even more forms of male birth control in trial not available in the US. Though there are better options out there, condoms still have many benefits and should not be written off.

This discussion is very timely since, as you read this, the US Supreme Court is debating the landmark healthcare overhaul that was passed in 2010, known to conservatives as “Obamacare” and to progressives as “that terrible compromise deal.” There is some discussion over whether or not the plan’s preventative care language covers contraceptive care. Some writers seem quite confident that it does, but only for women, leaving men like me out in the cold still. If that is true, the law is blatantly sexist and as a result of being sexist will be shot down or changed by the Supreme Court (why should the woman I am seeing have to get my condoms for me if I am also insured?).


  • http://about.me/tizzwall tizz wall

    That teal card has saved me numerous times.  

    Also, if you live in urban areas of California, there are usually other clinics around that do a lot of help.  The Berkeley Public Health Clinic is a favorite of mine, personally.

  • Jenna Gallicchio

    Hmmm…I must say you are a busy man ;-).  The only place I know of for free condoms is planned parenthood.  

  • Polypomp

     I like to stock up in advance to assure I always have a few when needed, it is also nice to have extras to give to friends who might not be so well prepared.

  • Polypomp

     I have not gotten around to checking out any of the “off brand” clinics around Santa Cruz, though there are a few (not as many as the SF bay area).

  • http://about.me/tizzwall tizz wall

    UNRELATED QUESTION: Do you know Gypsy?  We were talking last night and she said that she knew someone else who wrote for PPR, but didn’t know their writing name!

  • Polypomp

    Yup, we met a few months back up in SF and we were hanging out recently. I mentioned the new job and she mentioned knowing you, small world here in the bay, but not that surprisingly small.