While a loss of federal Medicaid dollars could affect their ability to operate, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin officials says the larger concern is that efforts in Congress to defund the provider could disrupt the care available to thousands of patients.
U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said this week that he wants to defund Planned Parenthood as part of efforts to repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin government relations director Nicole Safar says it’s something Ryan has pushed for many times in the past, and he’s clearly “giddy” now about the possibility of making it happen under a Republican Congress and president. “The thing that I think the speaker is not really thinking through is how many patients in Wisconsin and across the country are going to lose access to health care because of his comments and his actions,” she says.
About 83 percent of the patients Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin serves each year use Medicaid. Safar says ending the ability of the provider to treat Medicaid patients would result in nearly 50,000 patients in Wisconsin potentially losing access to care.
Safar points to a study done last summer, which found that in 50 percent of the counties where the Planned Parenthood operates in the state, there is not an alternative provider. Even if there is a hospital nearby, she says many of the larger health systems are “not excited” about the possibility of treating more Medicaid patients, because that care is usually provided at a financial loss. “They’re in a health care shortage already and, if you take away a community-based health center like Planned Parenthood, there is often nowhere else to go.”
As for whether the loss of federal dollars would force any of their 21 health centers in the state to close or reduce services, Safar says it is a possibility in areas where clinics mainly service Medicaid patients.
Pro-life groups praise move
The proposal from Speaker Ryan is prompting praise from pro-life organizations. Wisconsin Right to Life executive director Heather Weininger said in a statement that they are grateful for Ryan’s commitment to the issue. “Speaker Ryan, along with his pro-life colleagues, are standing firm on their promises and making clear that the right to life is a major priority in Congress,” she said.