In recent years many states across the country have been making significant changes to family planning services and coverage through Medicaid.
In this blog, the Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health will explore the findings of a new study by the Guttmacher Institute about the benefits of expanded coverage through Medicaid for family planning services and the potential it shows for healthcare reform implementation.
The study reports that participating states have expanded family planning access to women by increasing the income eligibility – most states set income guidelines between 185% and 200% Federal Poverty Level (FPL). Wisconsin – as national leader in many areas of healthcare access for low-income individuals – covers family planning and pregnancy related care for individuals up to 300% FPL. States have not only expanded coverage to women by way of increased income eligibility, but they have also increased the use of family planning services through increasing confidentiality practices (which has shown increases among teen populations) and by simplifying and enhancing the application process. Many states (Wisconsin included) have also begun enrolling men to receive services – such as STI testing and treatment. See this post from the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, summarizing 2011-13 WI budget provisions that put these advances in Wisconsin in jeopardy.
It is not surprising that these changes, according to the study, have provided women, men and taxpayers with many benefits.
Some key benefits include:
- Increased access to services
- Decrease in unintended pregnancies
- Increase in continuity of contraceptive use
- Increase in more reliable contraceptive methods
- Decrease in Medicaid funded pregnancies (a huge savings in taxpayer dollars)
The increase in access to family planning services has not only helped in the area of contraceptive use and unintended pregnancy prevention, but it has also increased access to cancer and Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) screenings. The study found that 18% of Wisconsin women who were currently in a cancer-treatment program had used family planning expansion services in the past. They also found that more than 2,000 clients – that were newly eligibly for family planning services through expanded coverage – were diagnosed with chlamydia in 2006.
Publicly funded family planning services is also a cost-effective approach – according to the study, for every dollar spent by the government for contraception, $3.74 in Medicaid funding is saved by preventing pregnancy– related care for unintended births. In fact, only 5% of unintended pregnancies were accounted for by women who stated that they consistently practiced contraception use – as opposed to 52% of nonusers and 43% of inconsistent contraception users. Furthermore, two-thirds of women at risk of unintended pregnancy report that they consistently use a method of contraception – only 16% of women report no use and 19% report inconsistent use.
Although the Wisconsin budget eliminates services to men, and reduces the eligibility and confidentiality components of the state’s current laws, this study shows the common-sense reality that current practices have saved money to the state, saved lives of women who may have otherwise gone undetected of reproductive cancers and help to reduce the amount of unintended pregnancies in our state. The Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health encourages state lawmakers to reverse these detrimental budget changes (as proposed in such bills as Senate Bill 232 and Assembly Bill 349), to ensure that there’s not action taken to reduce access to individuals in need of family planning services in Wisconsin.
The study shows that many states have begun to improve the avenues of enrollment for family planning services– both in terms of income eligibility as well as by making the application process easier to navigate – this only begs the question: how we can learn from this success in terms of increasing the full potential of new healthcare laws? By creating a similar application process that is easy to maneuver and that links Medicaid, healthcare exchanges and private insurance together, the study speaks positively about the potential of healthcare reform implementation efforts by ultimately building onto success that states, like Wisconsin, have already seen.