Michigan Association of Health Plans

Planned Parenthood

As the Michigan Legislature prepares to “investigate” Planned Parenthood, I thought it might be useful to review what this organization is doing in Michigan to help improve the lives of thousands of women. And what it is not doing.

First, Planned Parenthood in Michigan does not collect or donate fetal tissue for medical research.

Let’s say that again. In our state, Planned Parenthood is not involved in this practice.

You may agree or disagree about whether fetal tissue that otherwise would be discarded should be provided for medical research, with fees sufficient to offset costs, as has been done for many years under strict laws and regulation. But it’s not being done in Michigan, and nobody is alleging it is. This then begs the question of “what is the purpose of the investigation?”  Rather than focusing on the very emotional debate, I would rather make sure that all interested parties are fully aware of the important and vital player Planned Parenthood is in our delivery of health care services for Michigan’s citizens.

In Michigan, Planned Parenthood is an important provider of cancer screenings, birth control, testing and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, HIV tests, pregnancy tests, prenatal care and even vasectomies – but it uses no state tax dollars in doing so. The state does use federal dollars to cover Planned Parenthood’s costs of women’s health services to low income families. That’s because in many Michigan communities, it is the only source of such care, particularly for low-income citizens. In other communities, it’s a source of low-cost care, compared with other providers.

Planned Parenthood services help save tax dollars over time by reducing unwanted pregnancies, detecting cancer and other conditions early in order to lower cost of treatment and reducing premature births that can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

You may wonder why MAHP has an interest in this issue.  While we are confident that the supporters of Planned Parenthood can more than adequately respond to various questions and concerns, MAHP has interest due to the vast amount of preventive services provided by Planned Parenthood.

Without a doubt many commentators are very aware of the future challenges for access to care.  We know that we are facing a looming shortage of health professionals with up to 20% of those currently licensed, retiring in the next five years. Further, we are all aligning our advocacy messages to reaffirm evidence based practices that provide preventive health services as the first priority for care.  Within that context, it makes no sense to see the viability of a proven deliverer of needed primary health care services at risk.

Finally, with the increased enrollment in the Healthy Michigan Program and the traditional Medicaid enrollment that is largely “Moms and Kids,” we should be doubling down on access to care and not trying to limit these options.  MAHP will continue a dialogue with key policy makers on this vital access to care issue.