Whitmer and MDHHS Seek to Revive Statewide Family Planning Initiative – State of Reform

Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announcement earlier this month they will seek federal approval of a Section 1115 waiver demonstration to expand access to family planning services.

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The “Plan first!” The initiative would provide free contraception, cancer screenings, STI/STD testing and other family planning services to 25,000 Michigan residents.

The MDHHS told State of Reform that the “Plan First!” program originally terminated in 2016 due to a phasing out related to the enactment of certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2014, including the individual mandate. The individual mandate incentivized consumers to purchase health insurance by imposing a financial penalty if they lacked coverage or an incentive.

When the ACA’s individual mandate was removed in 2017, a coverage gap emerged that the reboot of “Plan First!” now aims to answer.

Covered services include initial and annual physical examinations related to reproductive health and family planning options, including patient education and counselling; breast and cervical cancer screenings; STIs and STDs, including HIV, screenings and tests; sterilization services, laboratory services relating to family planning; and medical, diagnostic, and treatment services deemed necessary during a family planning visit, such as STI/STD treatment or cervical cancer vaccination.

According to the MDHHS, women in Michigan can currently access low-cost or free family planning services through Michigan Family Planning Program and through the Healthy Michigan Plan. However, the department notes that about 25,000 Michiganders are not eligible under income eligibility for Healthy Michigan or traditional Medicaid, but have incomes below 200% of the federal poverty level. “Plan first!” aims to make these services accessible to this low-income population.

MDHHS says the initiative is expected to save participants $2,000 a year.

The department stressed the importance of this program for families in Michigan.

“MDHHS is committed to expanding access to health care – including family planning services,” he said. “Women and families need access to services to help them determine when and if they want to start a family.

Whitmer also voiced her support for the initiative in a statement.

“All women and families should have the resources they need to decide when and if they want to start a family,” Whitmer said. “While some hardline politicians try to suppress access to reproductive health care, I will continue to work to protect and expand it. These services are essential to help people live and plan their lives, and I will continue to fight like hell for Michiganders to have reproductive freedom and quality, affordable health care.

MDHHS said details of how to apply for the program will be announced after approval by the federal government.

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