In August of 2015, Governor Gary Herbert told state agencies to no longer direct federal funds to Planned Parenthood. Herbert was ultimately unsuccessful in his efforts, and Planned Parenthood continued to use the funds to provide testing, treatment, and counseling for STI’s, preventative treatment, and general information for the public – particularly low-income families. To his credit, Herbert did include in his annual budget this year a line item specifically dedicated to ensuring that those in need do have access to reproductive health services – however, the political hot-potato of Planned Parenthood isn’t going to go away anytime soon and there is no guarantee that attempts to pull funds in the future won’t happen again.
[pullquote]People will seek treatment when they are ill, and if an individual cannot afford to seek treatment they will put it off until it is absolutely necessary – and more expensive. Ultimately, if an individual is unable to pay for their treatment, it is we, the taxpayers, who foot the bill. HB 57 will not only help those in need but most likely save the state money in the long run.[/pullquote]Representative Brian King (Democrat – Salt Lake City) want’s to make Herbert’s pledge more official and long lasting with HB 57 – Reproductive Health and Medicaid Amendments.
HB 57 would authorize the Division of Health Care Financing under the Department of Health to peruse a Medicaid waiver designed to ensure that low-income individuals who do not qualify for full Medicaid coverage can seek and receive basic health services such as testing, treating, and counseling for STI’s; women can receive preventative exams (such as breast and cervical cancer screenings); and individuals and couples can receive family planning and counseling. HB 57 also makes the specific note that family planning services do not include abortions and would not be covered under this funding request.
The bill would direct the Division to request a 90/10 match, meaning that at the end of the day, the state will cover 10% of any costs incurred. These funds could be directed towards any medical facility providing such services and could provide low-income individuals with some level of protection in their ability to access health care if a politician once again decides to attack Planned Parenthood because of painfully inaccurate assumptions.
“To get [a] favorable federal match on Medicaid dollars, we need…a waiver so that we can implement the program at a 90 percent contribution rate from the Feds,” King told Utah Political Capitol, adding that the governor adding the line item to the budget came to his “surprise and gratitude.”
If passed, King feels that “it will reduce unintended pregnancies, abortions, and STI’s. It is also a key component of dealing with intergenerational poverty.”
In a political climate locally and nationally so averse to government spending in general and on health care in particular, King’s proposal has an uphill battle to say the least. But as we often remind our readers, when it comes to public health, disease doesn’t know or care how rich or poor you are and that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
People (yes, even the poor) will seek treatment when they are ill, and if an individual cannot afford to seek treatment they will put it off until it is absolutely necessary – and more expensive. Ultimately, if an individual is unable to pay for their treatment, it is we, the taxpayers, who foot the bill. Why not then make sure that those truly in need have access to the basic healthcare that can prevent such disease from spreading? Furthermore, it is probably safe to say that people don’t want disease running rampant in society, and if we are not preventing disease, we are tacitly allowing it to spread among all people and among all classes.
HB 57 is good legislation that will not only help those in need but most likely save the state money in the long run. Lawmakers should take a long look at themselves before deciding against such legislation and the governor should be a strong advocate for it during the session.
To contact Representative King, click here or call 801-560-0769
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