Speaker Paul Ryan and other anti-abortion politicians in Washington say that the country’s overburdened, publicly funded community health centers will take up the slack in the event these politicians “defund” Planned Parenthood.
It’s no wonder why the executive director of the American Public Health Association called the idea that CHCs could absorb Planned Parenthood’s patients “ludicrous.”
Proponents of Planned Parenthood defunding often assert that other providers will fill the gap. They are wrong.
Our health system is unprepared to meet that need. Both obstetrician–gynecologists and primary care physicians face workforce shortages. Planned Parenthood health centers help minimize the gap in primary care and reproductive health services in rural and medically underserved communities, with 54% of their health centers located in those areas (2). Services provided range from annual well-woman examinations to vaccinations.
In a single year, Planned Parenthood health centers conduct more than 270 000 Pap tests and more than 360 000 breast examinations—essential services for detecting cancer (3).
Three in 5 patients who come to Planned Parenthood for preventive care rely on federal programs for their care. In many areas, Planned Parenthood health centers are the only family planning option for those patients.
Forcing the closure of Planned Parenthood health centers would put immense pressure on private and unaffiliated health care providers, especially obstetrician–gynecologists and primary care physicians, to assume care for patients previously seen at those clinics while their own practices already are at full capacity. With much lower reimbursement rates from Medicaid than private insurance, providers would need to address how to provide care for more Medicaid patients while continuing to see enough privately insured patients to financially sustain their practices.
In reality, Medicaid managed care plans already face extreme provider shortages (4), and this is unlikely to change suddenly.