Good news from the Wall Street Journal:
Wisconsin is pushing to expand a controversial program that uses federal Medicaid funds to provide free birth-control pills, vasectomies and other forms of contraception to low-income people, an effort made possible by the federal health-care overhaul. It and 26 other states already provide free contraception and other reproductive-health services through a Medicaid pilot project to lower-earning women who otherwise wouldn’t qualify. Among other things, the women get access to prescription birth control, Pap smears, testing for sexually transmitted diseases and, in some states, infertility treatments. Women qualify for Wisconsin’s program if they make up to $21,600 a year for single people—twice the federal poverty level.
Well, for one good reason. The program appears to allow youngsters (as young as 15) to participate without parental consent, something, I reckon, that should only be permitted under fairly rare circumstances.
As for the rest, well, we have to look to the usual suspects to discover the source of that “controversy”, namely the US Conference of Catholic bishops, and, an even worse sign, an organization with the word “family” in its name, in this case something called Wisconsin Family Action. It’s to be noted that these groups’ objections to what the state of Wisconsin is doing are largely based on their own notions of morality, not taxpayer value (a principle generally of little interest to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, a reliable bastion of the religious left). They are, of course, perfectly entitled to their opinion, but taxpayers would do well to ignore it. A more important question to ask is whether such programs represent value for money. As you’d expect, the Wisconsin program appears to be just that:
Wisconsin says about 53,000 people receive extra family-planning help under Medicaid. With federal Medicaid funds reimbursing 90% of the cost of most family-planning services, the state spent $18.4 million on the program in 2008. That same year, the state’s health department estimates, the program prevented an estimated 11,064 unplanned pregnancies, at a savings it estimates at $139.1 million—savings, it says, in expenditures to cover the birth of those children and other health care for them. Most state Medicaid programs have a higher income limit for pregnant women, while setting a lower limit for women after they give birth and often excluding childless adults. Proponents of Wisconsin’s approach say states can save money by providing more family-planning aid earlier instead of waiting until a woman gets pregnant to widen the net for Medicaid.
Makes sense to me.