4 Things You Need To Know About Planned Parenthood

My mission for Hitha On The Go has always been to help you live your best lives. I firmly believe that “being knowledgeable and engaged” is a core pillar of that mission. I vowed to listen with an open mind and heart after the election, and I ask you to do the same today. There is a lot of noise and misconceptions about Planned Parenthood – mostly around abortion. Today’s post is to give you information about healthcare access for uninsured, how Planned Parenthood fits into it, and what the elimination of federal funding means for millions of Americans. 

What I won’t mention in this post – abortion. Abortion has become synonymous with Planned Parenthood, which has clouded our ability to look at the organization objectively – on both sides of the aisle.

Today I want to focus on Planned Parenthood (without the filter of abortion), and examine the role they play in our healthcare system.

I don’t ask you to agree with me. I also don’t wish to launch a digital firestorm of differing opinions. All I ask is for you to read this post with an open mind, and contribute to a meaningful dialogue.

Congress is like butter. It’s on a roll!

The 115th Congress (we knew that!) has been abuzz with activity. And one big move grabbed a lot of attention – including my own.

Speaker Ryan and the House’s GOP leadership pledged to cut federal funding from Planned Parenthood.

I know Planned Parenthood. You know Planned Parenthood. And we all have strong opinions about the 100-year organization.

I admit, I nearly hit the “retweet” button obsessively when the news broke yesterday. But one thought stopped me.

“I don’t actually know how Planned Parenthood fits in our healthcare system.”

I didn’t even know what an FQHC was – the first time I saw the acronym was stalking Grace on Instagram (yes, I Insta-stalk my friends).

And so we (my assistant Mackenzie and I) set out to learn. We read congressional research reports, published papers from conservative and liberal think tanks, and countless articles. We talked a lot. We researched some more.

And then we wrote.

We sought out to answer 4 big questions about Planned Parenthood (that have nothing to do with abortion).

And we did.

Before we start, here’s the TL;DR on terms you’ve heard before (but don’t exactly know what they are or do)

  • Medicare – federal health coverage for people who are 65 years and older or who have a severe disability, regardless of their personal income.
  • Medicaid – health insurance for people with low income, that is funded jointly by each state and federally. At least $1 is matched by the federal government for every dollar spent by the state in the program, on qualifying Medicaid expenditures.
  • FQHC (federally qualified health center) – community-based health centers that provide a wide array of primary and preventative care – general doctors, dentists, pediatricians, and OB-GYNs. They accept most insurance providers (including Medicare and Medicaid) and always provide care, regardless of anyone’s ability to pay. You’ll find FQHCs in mostly urban and underserved areas.
  • RHC (rural health clinic) – like FQHCs, RHCs provide primary and preventative care to Medicare and Medicaid patients. Unlike FQHCs, they’re not required to provide care to uninsured (though many do) and are often limited to primary health care services, first response emergency care, and to handle 6 basic lab tests.
  • Title X – a federal program focused solely family planning services. Facilities receiving Title X funds must meet and maintain certain guidelines – provide care to all individuals, maintaining confidentiality regardless of age, and provide the mandated range of services. Title X funds cannot be used for abortions.
    History lesson – The Public Health Service Act (which includes Title X) was passed in 1970, with strong bipartisan support. Can’t we all just get along again?

Got it? Good. Let’s dig into the questions.

What’s the difference between PP and FQHC and RHC?

FQHCs and RHCs are certified by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services – which makes sense, given that they cater primarily to those patients. As such, they have to meet and maintain certain criteria to obtain and maintain this designation.

Planned Parenthood, on the other hand, is a nonprofit organization that’s focused on providing reproductive health care and education. Their services are not general, which prevents them from being certified as a FQHC or RHC. They do, however, meet Medicare, Medicaid, and Title X’s eligibility to receive reimbursements and grants on the millions of services they do provide – with the exception of abortion.

What does Planned Parenthood do that FQHC and RHC don’t?

PP is solely focused on reproductive health for women and men alike. This is what and how much they do:

  • 42% STD/STI testing and treatment (women and men)
  • 34% contraceptive services
  • 11% women’s health treatment
  • 9% cancer screening and protection (women and men)
  • 3% abortion services
  • 1% adoption referrals and family planning (women and men)

Look at the top two services Planned Parenthood provides – STD/STI testing and treatment, and contraception.

These are sensitive, and often emotional, services to go through.

How does Planned Parenthood get funded?

The organization gets funded four ways

  1. government
  2. private insurance reimbursements
  3. donations
  4. operating revenue

For the purposes of this post, let’s focus on government funding.

PP receives funds from Medicaid (in the form of reimbursements for the non-abortive care they provide), and from Title X (as a grant, to be used on family planning services except for abortion).

Planned Parenthood receives just under half of their overall funding from the government, with over $400M coming from Medicaid reimbursements. Which brings us to the next question…

What happens to Planned Parenthood if federal funding is withdrawn?

Truthfully, I don’t know.

But let’s take a look at Texas.

In 2015, Governor Greg Abbott cut state Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood centers (and other family planning centers as well), and funded the Texas Women’s Health Program instead. In doing so, he also eliminated the federal funding as well, which made up 90% of the Medicare reimbursement to Planned Parenthood in Texas.

The Texas Women’s Health Program, in addition to receiving all these funds, could legally withhold funds from any clinic that even affiliated with an abortion provider.

The result – fewer birth control reimbursements (meaning women were unable to access them from their original providers, though Medicaid), and an increase in births.

Now, these are general summaries (you can find all data here), but it’s a preview of what’s to come. Even though women could have gone to FQHCs and RHCs to continue their contraceptive access, they didn’t.

Why?

It goes back to the a previous question – what does PP do that FQHCs and RHCs don’t?

Location may have played a factor, in that identifying a FQHC or RHC may be difficult for any patient – you have to first know that they exist, and then locate them.

And yes – once you find your closest one, you can go in for a STD test or a prescription for birth control.

But choice is something that we heard a lot from the Republican party during this election. Choice in obtaining healthcare (through vouchers or credits), choice in schools.

But what about choice in where to receive sensitive medical care? Should any woman or man, regardless of their race, economic status, or insurance coverage, have the right to choose where to receive treatment and care that is quite sensitive and personal?

The quality of care and access in a FQHC and RHC is largely variable. But something Planned Parenthood has done over the past 100 years is provide consistent supportive and sensitive care to everyone who walks in their doors – regardless of which location you walk into.

2.5 million people may attest to that.

If you’re still reading – thank you. Hitting ‘publish’ like this (on a lifestyle blog, no less) is a risk. We’ve taken great care in presenting facts and as objective of a synopsis as we could.

And now – actions you can take, based on how you feel about this.

If you agree with the withdrawal of federal funds for Planned Parenthood…

  • Call your local congressman/woman’s office and log your opinion with them. I spent two summers logging constituent opinions, and they do matter.

If you believe Planned Parenthood should continue receiving federal funds…

  • Set up a recurring donation to Planned Parenthood, to a state that’s cut funding to the organization (Texas, Arkansas, Alabama, New Hampshire, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Utah). Pro tip – you can make your donation in someone’s honor (Paul Ryan, anyone?)
  • Call your local congressman/woman, Speaker Ryan, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Majority Whip Steve Scalise and log your opinion. Here’s a script you can use:
    I’m calling to voice my support that Planned Parenthood continue to receive federal funds in the form on Medicaid reimbursements and Title X funding.
    This Google doc has scripts, phone numbers, and everything you need to contact your elected officials easily.
  • Purchase the ‘Nasty Woman’ shirt I’m wearing in the picture, supporting Samantha Bee’s campaign for Planned Parenthood in Los Angeles County.

Additional reading:

Thank you for reading, and acting in the way you feel aligns with your values. I truly appreciate your support and being a part of this corner of the Internet.

If you found this post helpful in any way, I invite you to share it with your family, friends, and random Internet followers to start a dialogue of your own.

My hope is that we discover that there’s more that unites us than divides us.

  • Kate Duis

    Thank you for such a truthful and educational post! Put those nerves away and walk proud!!

    • hithaonthego

      I did and I am! Thank you so much for your support. Next up – the Affordable Care Act.

  • Roons

    Thank you for the well researched post and education.

    • hithaonthego

      Thank you, Roons.

  • ella minnow

    Great post, but this is the 115th Congress!

    • hithaonthego

      Thank you for pointing it out! Just corrected it :)

  • Jessie Buckmaster

    Thank you for this, it is so needed. The variety of services and sensitivity of care (this is so crucial) is something I’ve tried to communicate over and over again to friends on the other side of the aisle. Great job on doing the research and presenting the facts.

    • hithaonthego

      Thank you so much, Jessie!

  • Jenn J.

    This is incredible! I appreciate you both for taking the time to dig into the issues and sharing resources with us. High five!

    • hithaonthego

      Thanks so much, Jenn!

  • Thank you for such a well researched and written post. Please keep using your voice for these issues. We all need to, now more than ever!

    • hithaonthego

      Thanks Erica! Currently in the depths of researching the ACA – which will have to be a multi-part post. There’s just so much to cover…

  • Carly G

    Thank you for this information. I can finally say that I understand how PP works, I already knew it was important but didn’t really understand how it was funded.

    • hithaonthego

      I really appreciate that, Carly! Thanks for your kind words.

  • Alyssa Kolsky Hertzig

    Amazing, important post. Thank you!

    • hithaonthego

      Thank YOU, my bellow BfH!

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  • Elizabeth

    Very impressed by your thoughtful and well-researched approach. I think this post will be an incredible resource for both men and women who don’t quite understand how important Planned Parenthood is to our health care system.

    • hithaonthego

      Thanks so much, Elizabeth! That’s my goal – for us to learn, and discuss with a better understanding of how PP (and healthcare in general) works.

  • Jess Ensminger

    I work at a really fantastic FQHC in Pennsylvania. We have 6 locations in urban and rural locations, provide family planning services (including prescribing birth control), provide rapid HIV testing and STI testing to all patients, have an integrated Nurse-Family Partnership program (for first time, low income mothers), a program for HIV care management in conjunction with the area hospital group, and a lot of other really wonderful options for our patients including dental and behavioral health services.
    We also offer a reduced fee program for patients, based on family size and income. We’ve seen our local PPs reducing hours and services and we’re trying to be able to provide some of their MANY services for our patients. They’re a great referral source for us, and us for them. We all work better when we work together so keeping an eye on their funding situation is almost as important as our own funding. <3

    • hithaonthego

      Thank you so much for your amazing work and thoughtful comment, Jess! I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t even know what a FQHC was until I began researching this post, and now I’m digging even deeper in them to help me understand the ACA even more.

  • hithaonthego

    Oh the mansplaining. The fact that people ignore PP’s services to MEN (so yes, it affects you too) angers me like no other. Thanks for reading and for your action-taking!

  • Hope

    I am in awe for what you do on behalf of women and the underserved in our world. My experience with PP…it was a place to turn in desperation. I was a vicim of rape. The rape counselor met me at PP for STD testing. My research and personal experience post crime was that PP was equipped to help a victim of sexual abuse. No judgement and limitless compassion. The office closed but I drive by the building often. I offer up a prayer of gratitude for the day I met a counselor in the parking lot to help me navigate the forms and testing. I transitioned to a GYN. The staff nor the physician are trained to handle a female with a broken spirit who was a victim of a senseless crime. The stigma still exists.

    • hithaonthego

      Oh Hope. Thank you – I’m not doing much except for writing (which I selfishly want to do to learn more about the issues myself), but I can’t thank you enough for your kind words and for sharing your story.

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  • Katie

    Thank you so much for putting such an important post together. I am all for funding PP with federal funding, but now I have a much better understanding of why I am for it.

    • hithaonthego

      Thank you Katie!

  • Adriele Dixon

    I just wanted to thank you for (as always) backing up your opinions with facts. On the Hill my biggest pet peeve was people (in any party) ranting or raving about something without the facts to back it up. Everyone may have opinions (which is fantastic and VERY American,) but our country will only grow and become greater when people take the time to understand their own beliefs – and be able to respectfully explain those to others. Thank you for taking the time to research and lay out the facts, friend! The world needs more women like you!!

    • hithaonthego

      You made my day, week, month, and potentially life with this comment and your e-mail. Thank you, thank you for your support.

  • Great post, thank you for writing this. Information is power, and I know that I learned some great facts that I will make sure to casually drop into conversations in the future.

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