The following article was published in the Progress issue of The Independent in September of 2008.
Grace was in her late 40’s when she came to the Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood health center for the first time, and she had not been to see a gynecologist in over 10 years. Why? She did not have health insurance. According to Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood Enrollment Counselor, Julie Pierino, Grace was most immediately concerned about her risk for cancer. “We helped her first obtain a mammogram through the Healthy Women’s Partnership, a statewide program that covers the cost of cancer screenings for uninsured women, “ explained Julie. “We then helped her enroll in the Family Planning Benefit Program (FPBP), a Medicaid program that covers family planning services for working women without health insurance, and provided her with a complete GYN exam, including a Pap test. She’s still coming in for family planning visits.”
Karen came in her local UHPP center for a pregnancy test. She was worried and confessed that she had lost her job and health insurance some months prior and so had stopped taking her birth control. She had found work, but continued to be uninsured. Fortunately, her pregnancy test was negative and she qualified for one of the lowest rates on our sliding fee scale. She was very relieved to be able to have a GYN exam and to once again have access to affordable contraception.
Marta and her three children had recently immigrated from Venezuela. She had been able to obtain a prescription for birth control pills from another provider but, due to language barriers, had not understood exactly how they worked. To save money, she began taking her pills every other day. When she came to our health center for her first visit, she was pregnant. We were able to offer Marta pregnancy options counseling, using a professional “Language Line” interpreter, and to also help her gain coverage for a complete GYN exam, as well as for the pregnancy option of her choice and future birth control prescriptions.
Each of these stories is true, although the names have been altered for reasons of patient confidentiality. These stories also represents hundreds of similar clients seen each year at UHPP health centers in Albany, Latham, Troy and here in Columbia County at our Hudson health center. As the numbers of uninsured men and women rises in the Capital Region and across the country, UHPP is filling the gap by ensuring access to critical health services.
Without access to quality reproductive health services, women delay preventive exams and rely on less effective means for family planning. The end result can be seen in high rates of unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections and cervical cancer. Prevention education and preventive health care saves money and saves lives.
In 2007, out of 10,993 UPPP patients served, 3,942 (36%) had services covered by private health insurance, while 1,722 (16%) qualified for one of several Medicaid programs and 5,329 (48%) qualified for our sliding fee scale.
These are difficult economic times and every individual and organization is learning to get by with less. However, there is no more important time to maintain an investment in preventive health, particularly family planning. Women and families need access to the knowledge and services necessary to decide when and whether to bear children, so each child can be raised in a loving, healthy environment. For this reason, Planned Parenthood continues to not only provide health care services and sex education, but also to organize and advocate for funding to support these services. Funding for family planning services is our highest advocacy priority.
The UHPP Hudson health center is located at 190 Fairview Avenue and is open on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9:00am to 5:00pm. A special teen clinic and drop in space is available on Thursday afternoons beginning at 2:30pm. For more information about UHPP programs and services in Columbia County, call 828-4675 or 1-800-230-PLAN. Our web site at www.uhpp.org. offers information on center locations and hours, health services, education programs, upcoming events and opportunities to donate, volunteer or advocate.
Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood is a non-profit organization serving Albany, Columbia, Greene and Rensselaer Counties. It administers four health centers in downtown Albany, Latham, Troy and Hudson and provides medical services to over 10,000 men and women each year. The organization is know as a leading expert is sex education and provides hundreds of educational programs each year to thousands of youth and professionals. UHPP is also a strong advocate for legislation supporting reproductive health and choice.