Nicole Robbins, 31, is a single mother in Indianapolis, Indiana, who has been visiting Planned Parenthood for pap tests, breast exams and birth control for nearly six years. Last week, she received some bad news: they can no longer legally accept her Medicaid payments.
“I’m frustrated,” she told HuffPost. “Where do I go now? I know the doctor there, I know the people there, I know it's confidential, I can always call with any questions or concerns. I don't want to have to go somewhere else.”
Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels signed a bill earlier this week that is the first in the nation to bar Planned Parenthood from contracting with Medicaid, which means that all of the 9,300 Medicaid recipients using Planned Parenthood of Indiana as their primary health provider now have to look elsewhere for their health and preventative care. The bill is intended to prevent taxpayer money from being used to pay for abortions, although the Hyde Amendment has banned taxpayer-funded abortions for the past 30 years.
Robbins, who is currently on administrative leave from her nursing home job and thus not earning any income, said the staff at her local Planned Parenthood referred her to the Health Advantage program at Wishard Hospital in Indianapolis, a managed care program for low-income and uninsured patients. But the hospital is much more difficult to get to from her house than the Planned Parenthood clinic, and there are many unknowns involved: Will she qualify for the program? Will they offer all the same family planning services as Planned Parenthood? Will there be a long waiting list for appointments?
Gov. Daniels recently said in a media advisory that there are 800 total Medicaid providers in the counties where Planned Parenthood serves, but Betty Cockrum, President and CEO of PPIN, said she questions whether that number accurately means anything for her patients.
“That’s probably an accurate number, but what isn’t the case is that there are 800 providers who offer reproductive health care, have the same patient-friendly hours, are within the same driving distances when pump prices are 4 dollars in our state, who don’t have a waiting list, who are taking new patients,” she told HuffPost. “This is a very cavalier and irresponsible approach to public health policy."
In order to meet the needs of all of the Medicaid patients who were very suddenly left without a primary health provider this week, Planned Parenthood of Indiana will be covering the costs of its Medicaid patients through at least May 21 using private donations.
“In the past two weeks, we've seen donations pouring in from several hundred donors across 36 states, all reacting to the defunding bill,” said Cockrum. “The absolute most right thing to do is look at those gifts a day at a time and figure out how to continue covering services to our Medicaid patients.”
Cockrum said a surprising amount of the private donations are coming from men, almost all of the donors are new donors to Planned Parenthood, and most of the money is being designated to make up for the Medicaid defunding.
“It’s astonishing,” Cockrum said. “I think it’s really clear that most people understand what Planned Parenthood is about, and they wish for it to continue.”
PPIN and the American Civil Liberties Union have filed an injunction against the defunding bill in federal court, charging that it violates federal Medicaid rules as well as the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. An Indianapolis judge denied the request for a temporary restraining order, and the law will remain in effect until the injunction hearing in early June.
If Planned Parenthood fails to repeal the law in court, the family planning provider may have to close down a few of its 28 Indiana clinics to cut costs.
Robbins said she doesn’t understand why she’s being told to stop visiting her Planned Parenthood clinic after six years because of abortion politics.
“It’s a disgrace,” she said. “I didn’t even know Planned Parenthood offered abortions until all this publicity. What does that have to do with low-income people getting treatment?”
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