House Speaker Paul Ryan holds his copy of insurance premium statistics during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on Thursday.(Photo: Associated Press)
U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday that Republicans would cut federal money for Planned Parenthood as part of their repeal of Obamacare — a move that could affect 50,000 Wisconsin patients of the group.
Planned Parenthood has 21 clinics in Wisconsin providing services such as contraceptives, screening for cervical cancer and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, with the majority of its patients covered through state and federal Medicaid programs.
Two of the group's clinics in the state primarily perform abortions but those services are not covered by federal programs such as Medicaid except in cases of rape, incest or a threat to the life of the mother.
Since 2011 in Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker and lawmakers have already taken action to stop money under state control from going to Planned Parenthood, which the group says has contributed to the closure of five clinics here.
But the GOP-held Congress and President-elect Donald Trump could go even further and Ryan said Thursday that Republicans would seek to do just that as they work to undo the federal Affordable Care Act.
“The Planned Parenthood legislation would be in our (repeal) bill,” Ryan said.
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Ryan's remarks came a day after a report issued by a special House panel criticized Planned Parenthood for providing tissue from aborted fetuses to researchers.
Ryan's comments drew immediate criticism from Nicole Safar, a lobbyist for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, who said that in many cases her group's patients would struggle to find other health care providers in their area who accepted Medicaid coverage. She said 83% of the group's patients for the most recent year — 49,792 of them in all — have all or part of their health coverage through Medicaid.
"Patients are choosing to come to us because there aren't other providers doing this for low-income people," Safar said.
Ryan spokesman Ian Martorana said that previous congressional efforts to block federal payments to Planned Parenthood have sought to redirect the money to other providers.
"This ensured that patients would have the opportunity to continue to receive care," Martorana said. "This year, any defunding of Planned Parenthood will afford similar protections for patients.”
Planned Parenthood argues that its abortion services are paid for with private money while critics contend that the public funds for other services end up subsidizing the group's overall operations.
Nationally, the defunding would take away roughly $400 million in Medicaid money from Planned Parenthood, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, and would result in roughly 400,000 women losing access to care, The Associated Press reported. Health care providers aren't required to accept Medicaid, which typically does not cover the full cost of medical procedures.
Since 2011, the cut in state-controlled money going to the group has already contributed to the closing of Wisconsin clinics in Shawano, Beaver Dam, Chippewa Falls, Fond du Lac and Johnson Creek, Safar said. More clinics would close under Ryan's plan and other health care providers likely won't be able to help all of the patients affected, she said.
"We do it because we're a mission-driven organization. We lose money on every Medicaid patient we see," she said.
During the presidential campaign, Trump said “millions of women are helped by Planned Parenthood,” but he also backed defunding the group.
Planned Parenthood is opposed by anti-abortion activists and most Republicans. Polls, however, show that the group is favorably viewed by a sizable majority of Americans — 59% in a Gallup survey last year.
The defunding effort also could complicate the Obamacare repeal in the Senate, where at least one GOP member — Susan Collins of Maine — cited the defunding language in opposing the repeal effort in late 2015, said the AP.
Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood in Madison and Washington, D.C., intensified after anti-abortion activists released secretly recorded videos in 2015 showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing how they sometimes provide fetal tissue to researchers — a legal practice as long as no profit is made from it. The group's clinics in Wisconsin do not share these tissues.
House Speaker Paul Ryan holds his copy of insurance premium statistics during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on Thursday. (Photo: Associated Press)
The House GOP report issued Wednesday accused the group of violating federal laws by altering abortion procedures to obtain fetal tissue and disclosing patients’ private information to firms that procure the tissue, the AP reported.
Planned Parenthood has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and did so again Wednesday.
Jason Stein can be contacted
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