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Friday, January 13, 2017

Four Reasons Planned Parenthood Is an Essential Health Care Provider

Lydia Mitts

Associate Director of Affordability Initiatives

Shannon Attanasio

Senior Director of Government Affairs

Update (6/05/17): Funding for these essential health care services is threatened by potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Learn how you can help stop repeal! Planned Parenthood provides essential health care services to 2.7 million women, men, and young people across the country, the large majority of whom have low incomes or live in underserved communities. Recent efforts at the federal and state levels to defund this critical provider would jeopardize access to comprehensive health care for millions of Americans.

Here are the facts on the important role Planned Parenthood plays in meeting the health care needs of underserved communities and the serious consequences that reducing or eliminating funding for Planned Parenthood could have on the communities it serves. 

Planned Parenthood is the primary source of health care for many patients

For many individuals, Planned Parenthood is their primary source of care and the provider they most trust with their health care needs. A Guttmacher report found that, among women who receive care from a family planning center like Planned Parenthood, nearly 4 in 10 report that it is their only source of health care

Consumers rely on Planned Parenthood for a comprehensive range of health care services. This includes preventive health care services (such as well-woman exams, breast and cervical cancer screenings, vaccinations, and birth control).

Planned Parenthood provides health care to primarily low-income and underserved communities 

In 2013, 78 percent of Planned Parenthood patients had incomes at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level, which is $36,375 a year for a family of four. Half of Planned Parenthood patients are covered through Medicaid, which serves low-income individuals and families. 

In addition, more than half of Planned Parenthood health centers are in rural or medically underserved areas. These are communities where there are not enough providers to adequately serve the community’s needs and where lower-income consumers often struggle to find a health care provider they can afford. In these areas, Planned Parenthood is on the front lines, helping ensure that patients have timely access to care. 

Planned Parenthood plays a fundamental role in tackling health disparities

Many Planned Parenthood patients are women of color. In 2013, 22 percent of the patients served by Planned Parenthood were Latino, and 14 percent were African American—two groups that suffer from multiple health disparities related to breast and cervical cancer. For example, Latinas and African American women are much more likely to die from cervical cancer than white women. 

Ensuring that women of color have access to the preventive screenings that can detect cancer and other conditions early is critical to reducing these disparities. As a trusted source of preventive care for women of color, Planned Parenthood plays a key role in improving access to this care.

Defunding Planned Parenthood would hinder access to care

Alongside other safety net providers like community health centers, Planned Parenthood is an important partner in providing high-quality care to underserved communities. If Planned Parenthood centers are closed or defunded, there is no guarantee that other health care providers will be able to serve their patients. In many instances, doctors, community health centers, and other clinics simply don’t have the capacity to provide care to all the patients currently served by Planned Parenthood. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO, which produces independent analyses of budgetary issues for Congress) has estimated that up to 25 percent of patients served by Planned Parenthood could lose their access to care if the organization lost its federal funding. 

When Texas cut Planned Parenthood funding, patient care was affected

At the state level, efforts to reduce or eliminate Planned Parenthood funding tell an even more concerning story about the potential impact of funding cuts. For example, in 2011, Texas cut its family planning budget by two-thirds and banned Planned Parenthood from participating in the state’s Women’s Health Program. Before this, Planned Parenthood served nearly 50 percent of the program’s patients. By 2013, the number of women who received care through the Women’s Health Program had dropped by more than 50 percent.

The facts are clear: Attacks on Planned Parenthood harm access to comprehensive care for many women, men, and young adults, especially those living in underserved communities. Congress should stop its politically motivated attacks on Planned Parenthood and instead work to protect, expand, and improve the programs that keep women and their families healthy.

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