The state plans to expand a program that uses federal Medicaid funds to provide contraception to low-income women. Some see it as controversial, but Jason Helgerson, the state’s Medicaid director, credits the family planning waiver with preventing unplanned pregnancies. “I don’t think that the family planning program has really been all that controversial,” said Helgerson. “I think there’s broad agreement that we all want to prevent unwanted pregnancies.”
But that program has had opponents from the beginning, including Republican state Senator Glenn Grothman. “This was a very controversial program in which girls as young as 15 are put on the pill, without their parents knowledge,” Grothman said. “The idea of throwing the pill at more and more young people has not resulted in a decrease of out of wedlock pregnancies.” Helgerson disputes that. “This program provides a vital service” he said. “While there are some groups who oppose it or have issues with it, I really think there is a lot of support out there for this program.”
Funding for the waiver has been conditional, and states have to reapply regularly, but a provision in the federal health-care reform law allows states to make their plans permanent and get federal funding faster. Wisconsin applied in June to raise the qualifying income limit to $32,490, which would mean a significant expansion in the number of women who could receive services. “I think the idea of pushing 15 year-old girls on the pill only encourages more promiscuity, which also results in more pregnancies,” said Grothman.