A Planned Parenthood clinic. CTMIRROR.ORG FILE PHOTO

As Republicans in Congress seek to cut off federal funds to Planned Parenthood, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has proposed legislation that would allow the state to make up any federal Medicaid dollars the clinics would lose.

Malloy did not include any additional money to go with the proposal in the budget he introduced last week – something a spokesman for his budget office said reflected the uncertainties about what changes might occur at the federal level.

But Chris McClure, a spokesman for Malloy’s budget office, said the language included in one of the governor’s budget bills is intended to “ensure there is no disruption in family planning services provided to Medicaid recipients.”

“Planned Parenthood is an important provider to the Medicaid program,” McClure said. “The language is added in case it becomes an issue.”

As an example, he said, Planned Parenthood is responsible for 25 percent to 30 percent of long-acting reversible contraceptives – such as intrauterine devices, known as IUDs – in the program.

The federal government reimburses Connecticut for a portion of what the state spends on medical care for people covered by Medicaid. Under Malloy’s proposal, if a family planning clinic that meets the state’s standards to participate in Medicaid becomes ineligible to receive federal matching funds, the state’s Medicaid program would continue paying at the current rate. In other words, the clinics would receive no cut and the state would make up what the federal government won’t fund.

Connecticut’s Medicaid program only pays for services that are eligible for federal Medicaid funding, unless there is an exception in state law or regulation, McClure said.

Federal law already prohibits federal dollars from paying for abortions, so any change under Malloy’s proposal would not affect abortions. Connecticut’s Medicaid program pays, without federal reimbursement, for abortions that are deemed by a doctor to be medically necessary and medically appropriate.

In Connecticut, Planned Parenthood has about 30,000 patients per year covered by Medicaid – about half of the clinics’ total patients.

“That’s a lot of people who would be impacted if Planned Parenthood could not be their provider. That’s why we’re concerned,” said Susan Yolen, vice president of public policy and advocacy at Planned Parenthood of Southern New England.

Yolen said she was “heartened” by Malloy’s proposal. Medicaid is one of two main sources of the organization’s federal funding; the other is through the National Family Planning Act.

And Yolen said spending money on family planning makes sense: Avoiding unwanted pregnancies saves money, she said, and, “Access to family planning is the single most effective way of eliminating the need for abortion.”

CT Right to Life spokesman Chris O’Brien questioned the proposal.

“I think it’s ironic that in the last three years, Connecticut has been cutting off funding for hospitals, but they’re promoting what we would argue is the death of children at abortion clinics, at taxpayer expense,” he said. “This is a taxpayer issue. Is this what our priorities should be?”

O’Brien said Planned Parenthood’s other work in health care is commendable, but said it doesn’t overcome the fact that the organization performs abortions.

Malloy’s proposal was included in a larger bill that would implement the governor’s human service-related budget proposals.

Arielle Levin Becker covered health care for The Connecticut Mirror. She previously worked for The Hartford Courant, most recently as its health reporter, and has also covered small towns, courts and education in Connecticut and New Jersey. She was a finalist in 2009 for the prestigious Livingston Award for Young Journalists, a recipient of a Knight Science Journalism Fellowship and the third-place winner in 2013 for an in-depth piece on caregivers from the National Association of Health Journalists. She is a 2004 graduate of Yale University.

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