The cost of doing nothing

Barbara Rose, area services director, Planned Parenthood Mar Monte

Barbara Rose, area services director, Planned Parenthood Mar Monte

In this “Year of Health Care Reform” in California, it’s ironic that the governor’s May budget revise would fail to fund Medi-Cal reimbursement-rate increases for providers of some of the most cost-effective preventive health care in the state: family-planning services. The cost of such an increase: $24 million that the federal government will match with an extra $68 million for California’s investment in preventative health care.

Family planning safety-net providers throughout California are in crisis. Planned Parenthood clinics alone are turning away 10,000 patients per month because the reimbursement rates currently paid for services to our Medi-Cal patients have not significantly increased in 20 years, while our costs have skyrocketed 300 percent.

Of course, we haven’t been sitting by idly. We’ve redoubled our efforts at private fund-raising, pursued public and private grants, tried to use more volunteers and cut costs everywhere. But these efforts alone cannot close the gap between revenue and expenditures. The result leaves clinician positions vacant and our patients with no where else to turn forces reductions in services.

In the Sacramento region, we’re already turning away more than 3,000 patients a month at Planned Parenthood because we don’t have the staff to serve them. Over the course of a year, that’s 36,000 regional residents who won’t get birth control or breast- and cervical-cancer screenings and who have no access to testing and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases or HIV/AIDS. We’ve even had to curtail prenatal services at many of our clinics.

That’s not a reproductive health-care crisis. It’s a public-health crisis.

Family planning is one of the most cost-effective services in the state. For every dollar California spends on family planning, the federal government matches it with $9 in federal funds. And studies show that for every dollar the state spends on family planning, taxpayers save an additional $5.33 in future medical and social-service costs.

Thousands of women are counting on their legislators to put money in the state budget for a rate increase and for the governor to sign that budget. Our lawmakers can jump start health-care reform today by putting prevention first and granting safety-net providers increases in Medi-Cal reimbursement rates.

It’s the right thing to do, it will save lives, and it’s a good investment in California’s future.