Guttmatcher Institute recently released a report on the potential benefits of new changes in the rules regarding the expansion of family planning funding within Medicaid. The family planning extension under Medicaid has been around for fifteen years, but thanks to a provision in the March 2010 health reform law, the process by which state governments can extend this family planning funding has become more efficient. The program was meant to extend these services to low-income people who make too much to qualify for Medicaid but might still need these essential services.
Before the Health Care Reform law went into effect, if a state government sought to extend services, the process to do so was quite arduous, and could extend for a couple years before having to be re-approved. Now, the process can take as little as just a few months. For example, South Carolina sought to extend Medicaid family planning services to include more benefactors in September and had their application approved before the end of the year.
The Guttmacher report shows clearly that this expansion has historically done a lot of good, and that the improvements in process, as well as the new inclusion of men and adolescents in these expansions has the potential to extend the positive effects of this program widely. The program prevents unnecessary unintended pregnancies by providing low-income people with access to family planning tools like birth control.
Programs like this also have support from both sides of the political spectrum because, as the Guttmacher report clearly outlines, improving access to family planning services like birth control reduces costs in the long term. In addition to being a common sense policy, it’s also a common ground one, since family planning and contraception has been less controversial than other reproductive health services like abortion.
By Rosario Quiroz, Community Mobilization Intern