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Change in Regulations Force Planned Parenthood Clinics to Close

Change in Regulations Force Planned Parenthood Clinics to Close

Photo: Steve Rhodes (flickr)

Despite abortion funding becoming a major focus of debate before the health care bill’s passing, Planned Parenthood officials say they’re pleased with the outcome.

Four more Planned Parenthood clinics around the state will close by the end of March due to a change in regulations the organization says is too difficult to reconcile with its service model. The new regulations could make getting contraception more challenging and more expensive.

Originally, the centers were funded by federal legislation called the Family Planning Program grant.  Under a new competitive granting structure, Family Planning dollars go away and three different grants are bundled together to help fund Planned Parenthood.

With the changes come new regulations regarding how the organization can receive money and for what services the cash can be used. Beginning this year, organizations like Planned Parenthood of Indiana, or PP-IN, local health clinics and family planning centers annually apply for grants administered by the Indiana Family Health Council and the Indiana State Department of Health.

PP-IN CEO Betty Cockrum says the regulations for the newly-merged grant don’t fit Planned Parenthood’s service model.

“Because the regulations that are being used now for the entire pot of money are more stringent, it became economically impossible to continue to operate under that funding,” said Cockrum.

Many Planned Parenthood clinics offer free contraception, subsidized by Medicaid, private donors and customer revenue, but charge for check-ups and other services.  Under the new regulations, every Medicaid-eligible patient who comes to a clinic receiving grant funding must receive all services that clinic offers for free, while everyone else pays based on a sliding scale.

Indiana has strict Medicaid eligibility requirements when compared to other states.  The average childless woman with no assets or disabilities cannot make more than nineteen percent of the Federal Poverty Level to qualify for Medicaid.  In other words, for her income to qualify her for free service, she must not make more than about $2,500 a year.

Ellettsville State Senator Vi Simpson says the issue should be a bigger priority for Indiana lawmakers.

“I think clearly this administration is not committed to providing family planning services.  You know it just was a low priority for them,” said Simpson. “Our preoccupation with all the resources at FSSA to deal with the IBM contract fiasco may have prevented them on moving forward on some very important initiatives like family planning waivers.  I don’t know the answer to that.  But I suppose most of the department was busy putting out fires created by the IBM contract.  Maybe they didn’t have time.”

WFIU contacted three Republican lawmakers, including members of the Senate Health and Provider Services committee and the House Public Health committee for a response, but all were unavailable for comment.

More than half of all states have family planning waivers, which broaden Medicaid eligibility for reproductive health exams and contraception.

According to the Guttamacher Institute, a research center for reproductive health, every Medicaid dollar spent on family planning saves at least three dollars over the long term.  Currently, Indiana Medicaid dollars are paying for the pregnancy and births of more than half of all babies born in the state.

Because of the stricter regulations and decreased funding, Planned Parenthood officials say they anticipate serving fewer people.  Despite PP-IN closing six clinics as a cost-cutting measure, there are still family planning service providers in all of the locations losing Planned Parenthood centers, with the exception of Shelbyville.

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