St. Louis Planned Parenthood clinics brace for possible cuts
Planned Parenthood clinics in St. Louis are taking stock of the $700,000 hit they may absorb under a new state law and a shifting federal landscape.
Last year, the Missouri legislature used a budgetary measure to cut the women’s health provider from the state’s Medicaid program. The process takes several months and requires federal approval, so the rule has yet to take effect.
A plan by the Republican-controlled Congress to dismantle the Affordable Care Act also includes a measure that would strip federal funding from Planned Parenthood, according to remarks made by House Speaker Paul Ryan.
“We’ll do everything we can to be accessible to Medicaid patients. Whether or not they choose to come to us would be a decision they’ll have to make,” said Mary Kogut, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region. “But we would try to be accessible, we’ll try to be affordable so they can continue to come to us.”
One in five local Planned Parenthood patients — about 6,000 women — are covered by Medicaid, according to the clinic. The $700,000 figure comes from reimbursements paid by Missouri’s Medicaid program for pap smears, STD testing and treatment, and other preventive care. Under state law, Medicaid cannot be used to cover abortions, except in life-threatening circumstances.
Still, Pam Fichter, chairman of the Eastern Region of Missouri Right to Life, said the clinics have no place on the state’s Medicaid rolls.
“If there’s any money going to Planned Parenthood, it either pays directly for abortion or frees up other money they can use for that,” Fichter said. “If you put a dollar in your right pocket and not the left, it’s still being used, right? It’s the same pair of pants.”
Though officials have suggested that Medicaid patients can instead get preventive care at federal qualified health centers, or FQHC’s, providers there have challenged that assertion.
“It would be very difficult for the FQHC Centers to absorb all of the contraceptive care and women's health care screening that is now being provided by Planned Parenthood,” said Dr. Abbe Sudvarg, an ob-gyn at Family Care Health Centers in Carondelet. “We are all passionately committed to the patients' in our communities, but the volume of patients that we see — male and female — across the life cycle, is huge.”
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This post has been updated to reflect Pam Fichter's current title, and to identify the Planned Parenthood sites as clinics, not affiliates.