Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Clients on Medicaid wonder where to get services

Bloggers note: This is a national issue.
Rita, a 23-year-old Terre Haute resident and single mom, has relied on Planned Parenthood to take care of her reproductive health care needs.

She’s also a Medicaid recipient, so when Planned Parenthood of Indiana announced it no longer had the funds to serve its Medicaid patients, at least temporarily, “It caught me off guard,” said Rita, who asked that her full name not be used. “It kind of made me feel like, what am I supposed to do?”

When she recently tried to schedule an appointment, she learned about the new state law that strips Medicaid funding from Planned Parenthood because it provides abortions.

But the law, which took effect in May, also denies PPIN Medicaid funds for general health services it provides to low-income women, including breast exams, birth control and Pap smears — some of the things Rita relies on.

She’s used Planned Parenthood services for about two or three years.

She went ahead with her recent appointment and paid for the needed service out of her own pocket.

But it made her wonder: What if it was something she needed and she didn’t have the funds?

Effective Tuesday, Planned Parenthood of Indiana said it would have to stop seeing Medicaid patients unless those patients can pay or use other resources.

A federal judge is expected to rule by July 1 on Planned Parenthood’s effort to seek a temporary injunction to block Indiana’s new law.

Planned Parenthood has been using private donations to care for its Medicaid patients, but that money ran out Monday. The organization announced it could no longer serve its 9,300 Medicaid patients statewide, which includes 263 in Terre Haute, unless those patients paid or used other resources.

Rita believes the state law is unfair because she believes those who are low income are still entitled to have their health care needs met. “Just because you don’t have money doesn’t mean your health should be looked down upon,” she said.

She likes the Planned Parenthood center in Terre Haute and feels comfortable going there. “I think they are great,” she said. They provide a lot of education, but they “are not judgmental.”

There are times she’s put herself in a situation “where I should have known better and should not have done this,” Rita said.

But at Planned Parenthood, they try to get her in as soon as possible to address her needs, and not lecture her. “It’s more about what can we do to help at the moment,” she said. She feels free to ask questions and express concerns.

If the law stands, and Planned Parenthood of Indiana can no longer serve Medicaid patients, “I’m not exactly sure what I would do,” she said.

She might try to find another provider that accepts Medicaid patients. Other options would be to try to save up money for a needed service or to simply not seek the service.

“I would have to just take a chance and not know what’s going on with my body and hope it’s nothing serious or nothing bad,” she said.

When she first got on Medicaid, she was referred to a doctor, but when she tried to get an appointment, “they told me they weren’t accepting new Medicaid patients.”

That is when she turned to Planned Parenthood.

If the law stands, she believes it will cause some Medicaid clients to go to hospital emergency rooms. “It will probably put some people in a desperate situation,” she said.

Planned Parenthood sued the state May 10, arguing that the defunding measure is unconstitutional and violates federal law.

The agency now says if it doesn’t receive a favorable ruling by July 1, it will begin to close health centers around the state and reduce staffing.

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