Panel advances bill to fund family planning services

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BOISE — A bill funding family planning services for low-income women cleared an Idaho House panel on a 9-3 vote Feb. 28.

The bill would provide payment to clinics that provide the services, which include contraceptives and consultation, based on a per service payment. Abortion is not included. All women who make under 133 percent of the federal poverty limit, those affected by the state’s Medicaid gap, would receive coverage.

According to the bill summary, “This legislation is a Medicaid Section 1115 Waiver that includes a five-year demonstration period, enabling time-certain evaluation of the waiver’s effectiveness.”

Public testimony on the bill lasted over an hour from medical professionals and women who would have benefitted from the bill. All spoke in favor of the bill.

HB 563 is sponsored by Minority Leader Mat Erpelding, D-Boise, who said the bill will result in huge cost savings to Medicaid. He estimates the cost savings will be up to three dollars return for every dollar spent.

“Currently these women only enroll in Medicaid when they become pregnant and they lose coverage 60 days after delivery,” Erpelding told the House Health & Welfare Committee. “This results in extremely high cost to the state for unintended pregnancies.”

Director for the Central Department of Public Health, Russell Duke, said 45 percent of the pregnancies Medicaid pays for are unintended.

The committee’s three so-called “liberty legislators” all voted against the bill.

Rep. Bryan Zollinger, R-Idaho Falls, asked a series of questions about whether the bill would provide funding to Planned Parenthood, why it only targets women and if the bill would fund religious family planning groups. A health professional responded it would fund both groups, so long as they meet the Medicaid service qualifications, which he said several religious groups do.

Rep. Eric Redman, R-Athol, voted for the bill because the Idaho Health Care Plan was sent back to committee from the floor earlier this week.

Kyle Pfannenstiel covers the 2018 Idaho Legislature for the University of Idaho McClure Center for Public Policy Research.

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