Sixteen Governors Call on Congress to Include Medicaid Family Planning State Option in Health Reform

Jodi Jacobson

Sixteen governors have written a letter to Senate and House Leadership urging swift action on the Medicaid Family Planning State Option under health care reform, a change in law that will improve health and save money.

Sixteen governors have written a letter to both Senate and House Leadership "expressing strong support for the Medicaid Family Planning State Option:

a provision in the President’s Fiscal Year 2010 budget and the Senate Finance Committee’s Coverage Options Paper that would help us provide family planning services, including breast and cervical cancer screening, contraceptive care, and related basic preventive care to millions of women and families in need."

The letter, addressed to Senators Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell, and to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Leader John Boehner, was championed by Governor Ted Strickland (D-Ohio).  The other signatories include Governors Jon Corzine (D-NJ), Chet Culver (D-Iowa), John deJongh (D-Virgin Islands), Jim Doyle (D-WI), Jennifer Granholm (D-MI), Christine Gregoire (D-WA), Timothy Kaine (D-VA), Theodore Kulongoski (D-OR), Martin O’Malley (D-MD), Jack Markell (D-DE), David Paterson (D-NY), Beverly Perdue (NC), Pat Quinn (D-IL), Bill Richardson (D-NM) and Bill Ritter, Jr. (D-CO).

"Many of our states have created family planning expansion programs," stated the Governors, "though we have done so with great difficulty."

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"Since the early 1990s, 27 states have been granted federal waivers to expand their Medicaid family planning coverage.  These demonstration projects have been unqualified successes, providing care to millions of women while saving states milions of dollars," the letter continued.  

From Arkansas to Oregon, states have seen savings of $10 million or more per year as a result of these family planning waivers.

The current Medicaid waiver process, however, "puts unnecessary roadblocks in the way of our efforts to maintain and expand coverage for family planning services," the governors wrote.  Passing this law as part of health care reform "would give us the needed flexibility to quickly and efficiently expand coverage for this basic preventive health care under Medicaid."

One in 5 women report not filling a prescription because of cost, and families often choose to forego a number of regular health expenses to help make ends meet.

Yet foregoing basic family planning care could have serious consequences for women and their families, including increases in unintended pregnancy, postponed screenings for breast and cervical cancer, increases in untreated sexually transmitted infections that cause infertility, and delays in access to prenatal care.

Because current economic conditions are making matters worse, the governors wrote:

We urge you to take swift action to pass this common-sense legislation…as part of health care reform.

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