Thursday, May 20, 2010

California Cannot Afford Cuts Like These

An often forgotten fact about our state budget is that, sometimes, spending a little money saves a lot of money. This is especially true when it comes to our spending on family planning.

Nothing in our state budget rivals the financial benefits of each dollar spent on family planning services. For each dollar the state spends, we get another 9 dollars from the federal government. Therefore, it's baffling for the governor to claim that his cuts to family planning services providers will save the state $15 million.

The governor proposes reducing the Medi-Cal reimbursement rate for providers of family planning services – like doctors, clinics, and managed health care plans – to 1985 levels This rolls back a vital rate increase adopted in 2007. In 2007, before the rate increase, clinics throughout the state were turning away 10,000 patients a month and the reimbursement rates for family planning were at 50% of what Medicare paid for similar services. Since 2007, 2 million Californians have lost their insurance, meaning the number of Californians to be turned away each month under the governor’s reductions will be significantly larger.

Fortunately, the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services rejected the governor’s proposal today.

Reducing the reimbursement rate would undermine one of the most cost-effective programs in California’s budget, Family PACT, which provides contraception to nearly one million women and 100,000 men each year. According to a recent report from U.C. San Francisco, California saves $9.25 per dollar spent on Family PACT.

By providing low-income Californians with contraception, Family PACT has averted an estimated 296,200 unintended pregnancies, 81,200 of which among adolescents. Statistically, these 296,200 pregnancies would have led to 133,000 live births, 122,200 abortions, 3,000 ectopic pregnancies, and 38,000 miscarriages. Because low-income pregnant women qualify for several public programs, like health care, Family PACT saved the public approximately $6,557 in costs per woman and child from conception to age two and $14,111 per woman and child from conception to age 5. In 2007 alone, this translates into saving $1.88 billion and over $4 billion, respectively.

Small investments in family planning reap enormous benefits, both to people and our budget. We should be proud of the results we have achieved in reducing teen pregnancy to record lows. Instead of cutting family planning, we should be looking for ways to replicate its results. California cannot afford cuts like these.