Family planning clinics could start cutting health services for low-income women after the Executive Council rejected a series of contracts last week, the head of the Concord Health Center for Equality said on Monday.
Family planning clinics often provide care to women in rural or low-income areas who are not eligible for Medicaid or their employer’s insurance. With its current funding level, the Equality Health Center is able to offer reduced fees to those earning less than 250% of the federal poverty level, or approximately $32,200 per year for a single person or $42,500 for a couple.
Executive Director Dalia Vidunas said clinic management is meeting this week to reassess whether this rolling fee scale is still feasible. Several affordable health services are also at risk, Vidunas said. She said that right now the center is able to provide STD tests for $95 even though they cost the center $92 to perform.
“It’s all going away,” she said. “That’s the kind of stuff you won’t see happening from now on: people won’t be able to afford services that don’t have insurance or have that $5,000 deductible.”
New Hampshire’s Democratic congressional delegation held a press conference Monday morning criticizing the Republican-led Executive Council vote last week that stripped the state’s family planning clinics of hundreds of thousands of dollars in contracts.
The four executive advisers who voted against the contracts said they feared federal funding would be used to provide abortions. Federal law prohibits family planning centers from using public funds for abortion services — the money was intended to fund other health services such as sexually transmitted disease testing and cancer screenings .
US Senator Jeanne Shaheen said the vote was an attack on women’s health care.
“For all those people claiming this is an effort to reduce abortions, that’s just plain wrong,” Shaheen said. “It’s about getting health care to women and families who really need it and most of them have no other options.”
Kayla Montgomery, vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, said some health services could disappear for low-income women.
“I want to be very clear that our doors remain open,” she said. “But we may see things like service cuts or longer wait times for patients.”
Family planning clinics have already faced a turbulent year of funding.
Several centers lost funding after the Trump administration banned federally funded clinics from discussing abortions or referring patients to abortion clinics.
Many centers, including Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, chose to opt out of the national family planning program, rather than abide by what they called a “gag rule.” The Biden administration has pledged to roll back Trump-era restrictions on federal funding, but that process will likely take several more weeks.
Members of the delegation asked the Secretary of Health and Human Services to provide financial support to the centers while the administration works on the reversal.
“It’s a matter of timing as to whether they can get funds here fast enough,” Rep. Ann Kuster said.
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