This Just In: Behind the Planned Parenthood guest opinion

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Dan Plutchak | March 7, 2017

The long-awaited Republican plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, could have its first committee hearing as soon as Wednesday of this coming week.
What should be known by early next week is if the plan also includes elimination of federal funds for Planned Parenthood.

One of our most-read pieces online from last weekend's paper was a guest opinion by Sara Nichols, executive director of Open Arms Free Clinic in Elkhorn. The clinic serves low-income residents and those without insurance. Read the column HERE. In her piece, Nichols argues for continued funding of Planned Parenthood because the reproductive health services that it provides cannot be duplicated by organizations such as hers.

We're running the piece in our JanesvilleMessenger and Stateline News. Although circumstances are different, groups like HealthNet of Rock County likely face similar challenges.

Planned Parenthood does have a clinic in Delavan, however, the only clinics that provide abortion services are in Madison or Milwaukee.

There certainly are those opposed to Planned Parenthood on that principle alone, even though the Hyde Amendment passed by Congress prevents any taxpayer money from being used for abortions.

Critics of Planned Parenthood argue that other providers in the community can take over those women's health services.

Nichols, however, argues otherwise.

That makes it incumbent upon those who are working to defund Planned Parenthood to also include in their plans a way to provide those non-abortion services to those who need them.

As we prepared to run the article, I was curious as to who Open Arms serves, now that the Affordable Care Act has made insurance available to more people.

As these things tend to be, it's complicated.

Nichols says there still are many residents with misconceptions about affordability and accessibility to health insurance.

Nichols said there are three main areas that bring people to her clinic.

1. Employers often promise new hires employer health insurance once the employee clears a 90-day grace period -- then terminate the employee on or before day 89. The employee remains uninsured.

2. In married couples, one person may receive Medicare but the spouse isn't of age yet, thus they do not qualify for tax subsidies in the Marketplace and their income is just above the 100 percent federal poverty level to qualify for BadgerCare.  The spouse remains uninsured.

3. The individual fails or is unable to pay the first premium for the Marketplace plan, thus not activating their insurance, and then is not eligible again until the next open enrollment period.  This is the same scenario if the person stops premium payment at anytime throughout the year.

The reality is that even $20 a month is too much for folks with chronic conditions on high deductible plans, Nichols said.

Nichols is unsure of what will happen with repeal and replace plans for Obamacare, but one thing she's not planning for is a slowdown in business.

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