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Guttmacher Report Cites Effectiveness, Cost-Savings in Family Planning Programs

February 24th, 2009 • Contributed by Sue Kettner
Posted in: Birth Control, Family Planning, Policy, Sex Ed

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[We recieved this today from The Guttmacher Institute, and wanted to make sure to pass it along.]

Publicly funded family planning programs save the U.S. billions of dollars each year though the prevention of about 1.94 million unintended pregnancies, including nearly 400,000 teenage pregnancies, in the U.S., according to a report released Tuesday by the Guttmacher Institute, the AP/Miami Herald reports. The report estimates that the unintended pregnancies prevented each year would have resulted in 810,000 abortions, 270,000 miscarriages and 860,000 unintended births. The report states that without publicly funded family planning programs, the U.S. abortion rate would be nearly two-thirds higher than the current level and nearly twice as high among low-income women.

More than nine million women, including almost two million younger than age 20, received publicly funded contraceptive services in 2006. Six in 10 women who use a family planning center consider it to be their basic source of health care. The centers provide services such as breast and pelvic exams, reproductive cancer screenings, HIV testing, treatment for diabetes and high blood pressure, and a source of referrals to other health providers. In 2006, public expenditures for family planning totaled $1.85 billion, with 71% of the funds coming from the joint federal-state Medicaid program. In addition, 27 states have expanded eligibility for family planning for low-income women who would not otherwise qualify for Medicaid.

Rachel Benson Gold, a co-author of the report, called publicly funded family planning “smart government at its best.” She said that every dollar spent on the programs saves taxpayers $4 in costs associated with unintended births to women who are eligible for Medicaid. Gold said that obtaining a waiver from HHS to expand family planning services is a “cumbersome and time-consuming process” for states but that it is a “popular policy because it helps women while saving public dollars” and “more than pays for itself.” The report recommends that Congress do away with the waiver requirement for extending family planning and instead allow states to use the same income criteria that they use for determining eligibility for pregnancy-related care. The report also endorses family planning coverage for legal immigrants who have been in the U.S. less than five years. Additionally, the report supports pending legislation in Congress that would increase funding for Title X family planning.

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