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Opinion: Albany Should Make Smart Budget Decisions

Published: 11.09.09| Updated: 11.09.09

Published: The Journal News

Imagine that Amber P., a 24-year-old woman, pregnant for the first time, rushes from work to the Planned Parenthood health center in White Plains for her initial prenatal exam.  When she arrives she finds the door locked and the lights off.  In Yonkers, Barbara C., a 17-year-old who needs to obtain birth control, finds the health center closed on Saturday morning, the only time she can get a ride to the center.  Marcus J., a father of two teenage girls, finds his class on communicating with his children about healthy sexuality cancelled.

This is the reality our patients face if Governor Patersonís proposed budget slashes 10% from family planning funding to health care providers, like Planned Parenthood.

The Governorís proposed 10% across-the-board cuts are penny-wise and pound-foolish.  It applies the most harmful approach to budget decreases that, if enacted, will reduce funding programs that actually preserve essential services and save the state money.  What do we mean by that?

There are two crucial advantages to funding family planning programs:
1.  For every one dollar the state spends on Medicaid family planning services, the federal government reimburses the state 90 cents.
2. For every one dollar the state spends on Medicaid family planning services, four dollars are saved in future costs.

Where else can the state find a program with such a payback, and one which performs so cost effectively?  With the enormous cost efficiency of Medicaid family planning services, it makes no sense for New York State to cut these core family planning services.  The preservation of these preventive public health programs for our most vulnerable patients must be a priority.

We recognize funding cuts are inevitable.  However, smart, strategic cuts will ensure that women continue to receive core, preventive, and cost effective health services when they need it, not in the future when it is more expensive.  We welcome the opportunity to work with our New York State legislators to identify these opportunities.

New York State recognizes the value of family planning.  The Legislature and State have a well-regarded history of supporting the work of family planning providers, like Planned Parenthood, with grants to improve or expand health care services and to provide a wide range of services and programs to meet the needs of our local communities.  Our patients primarily are young women of child-bearing age who live in underserved communities.  In many cases, providers like Planned Parenthood are their only access to critical preventive services such as cancer screenings, family planning counseling, pregnancy testing, prenatal care, and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections.

The national economic crisis has caused families to seriously re-evaluate their finances, often forcing families to make difficult, life-changing decisions.  Some families choose to skip medications to buy food.  Others give up their car to pay rent.  And in many families, women are making the dire decision to forgo essential preventative reproductive health care.

The need for family planning care is growing, not decreasing.  The economic downturn sadly has caused women to delay child bearing.  The Guttmacher Institute found nearly one in four women have put off a gynecologic or birth control visit in the past year to save money, and nearly one in four women report having a harder time paying for birth control than they did in the past.  If a woman chooses to forgo contraception she already is making difficult financial decisions.  Couple that with a potentially unintended pregnancy and she faces increased emotional distress and potential health consequences that can add to medical costs.  New Yorkís women deserve better.

Families are working hard to make ends meet and they need to know that they can still receive comprehensive, affordable health care from their local community health center like Planned Parenthood.  Smart budget cuts are the only option to preserve these essential services.  Haphazard cuts to family planning providers do not give women and their families, who are already in dire circumstances, the security and protection they need.  New York must continue its tradition of supporting family planning programs.

As Governor Paterson and the State Legislature prepare to make what could be devastating budget cuts to family planning providers, we urge our leaders to do better and to work smarter.  Inadequate funding will jeopardize providersí ability to provide core health care services in our local communities, leaving women with fewer and fewer options and leaving all of us with greater health care costs in the future.

 

Reina Schiffrin, MPH
President & CEO
Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic

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