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New Md. law to protect Planned Parenthood funding could be in play

Planned Parenthood on Howard Street in Baltimore. (File)

Planned Parenthood on Howard Street in Baltimore. (File)

If either of the Republican proposals to overhaul the nation’s health insurance rules become enacted, it would lead to an early use of Maryland’s new law providing funding for Planned Parenthood in the federal government’s place.

Both the health insurance plan released by Senate Republicans last week and the bill passed by House Republicans last month would defund Planned Parenthood entirely for one year.

That lapse in funding could trigger a Maryland law set to take effect next month. Under the legislation, sponsored by state Sen. Richard Madaleno, D-Montgomery, Maryland would step in to replace the federal funding.

“[The legislature] has done what is necessary to protect our patients who turn to Planned Parenthood for their health care,” Karen Nelson, president of Planned Parenthood of Maryland, told The Associated Press when the bill passed.

Conservatives have pushed to end funding for Planned Parenthood because the group offers abortions, which account for 3 percent of the organization’s performed services nationwide. Already, the Hyde Amendment prevents federal dollars from funding abortions.

The nonpartisan Maryland Department of Legislative Services estimates that, under the GOP health insurance proposals, lost federal family planning funding to the state that largely ends up with Planned Parenthood could be as much as $4 million.

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that cutting funding for Planned Parenthood would limit access to programs that help prevent women from becoming pregnant. So a fully funded Planned Parenthood program thus keeps Medicaid costs down. 

“Because the Medicaid program pays the costs of about 45 percent of all births, CBO estimates that the additional births stemming from the reduced access under this legislation would add to federal spending for the program,” the budget office reported about the Senate bill. “In addition, some of those children would themselves qualify for Medicaid and possibly for other federal programs.”

The Department of Legislative services estimated that in 2014, the state’s Title X program, which mostly includes Planned Parenthood, prevented 15,000 unintended pregnancies, 1,490 preterm or low birth-weight births, and 1,018 sexually transmitted infections.

The Maryland law was passed as part of several General Assembly measures drafted in reaction to President Donald Trump’s policies. A related bill set up a commission to watch federal actions on health insurance.

Tuesday afternoon, Senate leaders announced that they would not hold a vote on the bill this week and instead would rewrite the measure after more than half a dozen members of their conference opposed it. No Democrats had come out in support for the measure, so the GOP could not lose more than two votes from its ranks to pass the plan.

The Planned Parenthood provision was a point of concern for Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Whether that provision is included in the rewritten Senate proposal, it is in the House bill that passed last month and will have to be discussed in a conference committee reconciling the two chambers’ proposals.

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