Iowa family planning spending, participation way down

Only 6 percent of funds spent in 6 months; advocates say women not getting services

(Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
(Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

Iowa has spent only 6 percent of its budget in the first half of the year for a new Family Planning Program, which family planning advocates say is a clear sign women aren’t getting the services they need.

“I would infer less services are being offered, fewer people are getting access,” said Jodi Tomlonovic, executive director of the Family Planning Council of Iowa.

The Iowa Department of Human Services provided new numbers to The Gazette on Friday in response to an open records request seeking enrollment and spending for the state-based Family Planning Program, created last year to funnel money to women’s health care clinics that do not perform abortions.

As of December, 6,542 people were enrolled in the program that helps cover the cost of birth control, pelvic exams, pregnancy tests and some testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases for women and men ages 12 through 54 with household incomes up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level.

This is down 46 percent from December 2016, when 12,219 people were enrolled in the predecessor program, the Family Planning Network.

While enrollment in the Family Planning Network also had declined in recent years, the switch to the state-based program resulted in the largest single-year loss in the last four years.

Iowa reimbursed Family Planning Program providers $180,691 through Dec. 31 for services under the new program, DHS reported.

This is 16.6 percent of the $3 million allocated for the program.

That total, however, does not include all services provided during the first half of the fiscal year because providers have a year to submit claims.

“I think that sounds like a very low number for the first six months of a program,” Tomlonovic said. “One could question whether people are getting access.”

Though even under the previous family planning program, no tax money was used directly to perform abortions, Iowa rejected federal money that allowed participation by providers — most notably Planned Parenthood — that include abortion among their services.

The loss in funding caused Planned Parenthood of the Heartland to close four clinics earlier this year.

The switch also barred University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, in Iowa City, and UnityPoint Health, one of the state’s largest medical networks, which includes St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids.

This means low-income patients previously receiving services by those providers had to change doctors or pay out of pocket for services, including birth control.

A Gazette investigation Jan. 13 showed the state’s database of 1,431 Family Planning Program providers in December was plagued with errors and redundancies that advocates said made it difficult to use. The list included dermatologists, surgeons and a pulmonologist — none of whom typically offer family planning services — and more than 100 providers without Iowa addresses or phone numbers.

The Family Planning Program database has 135 listings for independent laboratories that don’t see patients.


DHS Director Jerry Foxhoven acknowledged the problems with the database Jan. 17 and said the agency would work to clean up the list before doing a public information campaign to help patients determine where to go for services, Iowa Public Radio reported.

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