Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced earlier this month that they will seek federal approval of a Section 1115 waiver demonstration to expand access to family planning services.
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The “Plan First!” initiative would offer free contraception, cancer screenings, STI/STD testing, and other family planning services to 25,000 Michiganders.
MDHHS told State of Reform that the “Plan First!” program initially ended in 2016 due to a planned phase-out related to the enactment of certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2014, including the individual mandate. The individual mandate incentivized consumers to have health insurance by imposing a financial penalty if they did not have coverage or an incentive.
When the ACA individual mandate was removed in 2017, a coverage gap emerged that the restarting of “Plan First!” now aims to address.
Covered services include initial and annual physical exams related to reproductive health and family planning options, including patient education and counseling; breast and cervical cancer screenings; STI and STD, including HIV, screenings and testing; sterilization services, family-planning-related laboratory services; and medical, diagnostic, and treatment services that are determined to be necessary during a family planning visit, such as treatment for STIs/STDs, or cervical cancer vaccinations.
MDHHS says women in Michigan can currently access low or no-cost family planning services through Michigan’s Family Planning Program and through the Healthy Michigan Plan. However, the department notes that approximately 25,000 Michiganders do not qualify under the income eligibility for Healthy Michigan or traditional Medicaid but have incomes below 200% of the federal poverty level. “Plan First!” aims to make these services available to this low-income population.
MDHHS says the initiative is expected to save participants $2,000 a year.
The department emphasized the importance of this program for families in Michigan.
“MDHHS is committed to expanding access to health care — including family planning services,” it stated. “Women and families need access to services to help them determine when and if they want to start a family.”
Whitmer also voiced her support for the initiative in a statement.
“All women and families should have the resources they need to decide when and if they want to start a family,” Whitmer said. “As some extreme politicians try to take away access to reproductive health care, I will keep working to protect and expand it. These services are critical to help people live and plan their lives, and I will keep fighting like hell to ensure Michiganders have reproductive freedom and quality, affordable health care.”
MDHHS said details of how to apply for the program will be announced upon approval by the federal government.