Editor’s Note: This story first appeared on New Hampshire Bulletin.
CONCORD – Gov. Chris Sununu said on Tuesday he was ready to bring back recently rejected family planning contracts for another vote after learning that two of the four Republican executive advisers who voted against the contracts cited insufficient information from the ministry of Health and Social Services as the reason for their vote.
The department rebuffed the claim on Tuesday, saying advisers received the contracts a week in advance and officials contacted each advisor to address their concerns. “The department is always ready to resolve any issues and questions advisers may have about the details and oversight of each contract,” spokesman Jake Leon said.
The three centers funded in the 4-1 vote – Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, Equality Health Center and Lovering Health Center – provide low-cost care to 12,000 people, around 80% of those who receive cancer screenings, contraceptives and STDs. screening and treatment through the state family planning program.
They also provide abortion services; other family planning centers that do not offer abortion have had their contracts approved.
Councilor Janet Stevens told the New Hampshire Bulletin this week that the contracts did not have enough detail and oversight, but she did not raise this concern with the department at the council meeting. She declined to say whether she had requested this information from the ministry before the vote.
Councilor Joseph Kenney told the Bulletin on Tuesday that he did not have the financial documentation he needed to justify the contracts. Kenney did not raise the lack of documentation at the meeting, although another advisor did. He did not say whether he had raised his concerns with the ministry prior to the meeting.
Asked Tuesday about the advisers’ statements, Sununu’s office raised the possibility of a vote.
“Although the council has rejected the contracts, it is still possible to resubmit them if the councilors believe their concerns can be addressed even further,” the office statement said. “And the governor is hoping councilors will see that the department has done a thorough job to address their concerns. “
Leon said the contracts make it clear what services are covered in the contracts and how the department monitors compliance.
Asked about her vote, Stevens said in a written statement that she “cannot in good conscience vote in favor of a proposal presented to the board that lacks detail, oversight and plain language.” She did not respond to a message asking her what details and what surveillance she was looking for.
The contracts Stevens voted against for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, Equality Health Center and Lovering Health Center, however, mirror the contracts she supported for four other family planning providers – Coos Family Health Care, Concord Hospital Family Care , Amoskeag Health, and Lamprey Health Care. The big difference is that the providers she voted against offer abortion services, while the others do not, but can refer patients to abortion providers.
Leon said the attorney general’s office reviewed the contracts before the meeting and found them to comply with new state law. And the state Department of Health and Human Services and Attorney General John Formella told councilors at the meeting that state audits, required under a new state law, showed that all providers used only private money – not taxpayer money – for abortion services, as required. by state law and federal law.
Stevens asked only one question about contracts at the meeting: whether providers had given the department what it needed to assess compliance with financial separation of services. Ministry officials said they did.
Kenney said in an email Tuesday that questions about this financial separation of services prompted him to vote like Stevens did, against contracts for Planned Parenthood, Equality Health Center and Lovering Health Center but also for others. .
He pointed to the new law, which states that contracts will be refused if it is found that a provider is using state money for abortion services and then refuses to physically separate abortion services from ‘another place. Kenney said he needed “financial documentation” from the department showing that the three vendors were not mixing funds; verbal assurances from the ministry were insufficient.
Discussions during the meeting indicated that the Department of Health and Human Services planned to provide counselors with a written report of the results of its audit last Friday, two days after the meeting. In the meantime, three ministry officials answered questions about the audits during the meeting.
Sununu’s office said it put contracts on the agenda last Wednesday, before the department’s written report was completed, for two reasons. The contracts contained retroactive payments to providers who had already provided the health care services without compensation for months. And he believed the department had the information to “make it clear” that no federal or state money was being used for abortions.
The other two councilors who voted against the contracts made their objections to the contracts clear during the meeting.
Ted Gatsas said he believed “a woman has the right to do whatever she wants”. But he doesn’t think family planning providers should make the morning-after pill available to people under 17 without parental consent.
Councilor Cinde Warmington, the only adviser to vote for contracts with Planned Parenthood, Equality Health Center and Lovering Health Center, told Gatsas these people can get the morning after pill from other health care providers if they may get an appointment, which is less likely to receive declining earnings based on earnings.
“The availability of the morning after pill is no reason to vote against our entire reproductive health system for women across our state and adversely affect childbirth outcomes across our state,” said Warmington.
Counselor David Wheeler said he does not believe reproductive health care providers are able to use only private – not public – funds for abortions, unless they perform them with separate staff. , in separate places.
Leon said the department currently does not have alternative funding to keep Planned Parenthood, Equality Health Center, and Lovering Health Center in the family planning program. If funds become available, the ministry will offer new contracts, he said.