On Same Day, Governor Dunleavy Doubles Down and Drastically Cuts Access to Medicaid
JUNEAU – Today, in order to meet the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)-imposed deadline of August 19, Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands (PPGNHI) has withdrawn from the Title X program as not to comply with the unethical gag rule, and put at risk affordable birth control and reproductive health care that has contributed to our record low teen pregnancy and abortion rates. This withdrawal will hit Alaska the hardest as PPGNHI provides services to 74 percent of the patients served by Title X in Alaska, more than 6,000 people. Approximately 25 percent of those patients are uninsured. In some regions of the state where Planned Parenthood provides Title X services, there are not enough alternate providers that could offer family planning services comparable to Planned Parenthood.
Title X is the nation’s only dedicated program for affordable birth control and reproductive health care. The gag rule makes it illegal for any provider in the Title X program to tell patients how or where to access abortion, and imposes cost-prohibitive and unnecessary “physical separation” restrictions on health centers that provide abortion –– moves that are clearly meant to push Planned Parenthood health centers and other reproductive health care providers out of Title X.
In addition, today, Governor Mike Dunleavy signed House Bill 2001 into law, which sets permanent fund dividends at $1,600 and reverses some of the vetoes issued in June. Gov. Dunleavy has backtracked on vetoes for domestic violence survivors, homeless assistance, and the University of Alaska system, but is moving ahead with the $77 million cuts to the Medicaid program funding in the 2020 budget, including the elimination of preventive adult dental, a decision in direct opposition to the will of Alaskans.
“Governor Mike Dunleavy is unfit to govern,” said Jessica Cler, Alaska State Director at Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii. “At a time when the federal government is directly attacking health care across this country, especially reproductive health care, we can’t afford this inept governor. Alaska already faces significant barriers to care and Gov. Dunleavy knows this. The loss of Title X funding on top of the budget cuts to Medicaid will have detrimental impacts in people’s ability to access cancer screenings, birth control, and basic health care, especially for the most vulnerable people in Alaska. We will keep fighting back and speaking out against these disastrous cuts.”
Alaska is a nationwide leader in poor indicators of sexual and reproductive health, including STI rates, teen pregnancy rates, and child sexual assault rates. Alaska also faces a provider shortage. A report released this year, puts Alaska 45th in the nation for children’s well-being.
Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), remains a strong leader in protecting Title X, and has come out publicly in support of this critical program as part of the health care safety because it furthers access to quality, affordable reproductive health care. Planned Parenthood is calling on Congress to act and move ahead with protections to the Title X program.
Nearly 60 percent of people in Alaska live in rural areas and people living in rural areas are more likely to depend on Medicaid. Medicaid also covers 66 percent American Indian and Alaska Native children and 28 percent American Indian and Alaska Native adults. LGBTQ people in Alaska, especially those who are transgender, people of color, or both — are often less able to access quality health care due to the intersections of racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, ableism, and other systemic barriers. As such, they are more likely to rely on federally funded programs to access care.
The cuts to Medicaid funding will have devastating impacts on Alaskans across the state. Gov. Dunleavy is reducing access to health care, and actively working to roll back Medicaid expansion in the future. This veto will take away lifesaving health care from thousands of Alaskans, including children, elderly, and people with disabilities. Most of Alaska's health care providers — rural hospitals, community health centers and children's hospitals rely on Medicaid funds and these cuts have the potential to upend the entire health care network.