Malloy stands by pledge to aid Planned Parenthood despite cost

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is maintaining his commitment to fully fund Medicaid reimbursements to Planned Parenthood in Connecticut if the federal government ends its financial support as part of the Republican plan to dramatically reshape the Affordable Care Act, a spokeswoman said.

Numbers provided by the governor’s budget office indicate picking up the federal share of Planned Parenthood’s funding in Connecticut would cost the state several million dollars each year at current levels.

The federal government provided $5.3 million in reimbursements to the family-planning organization in Connecticut last fiscal year, up from $4.3 million two years earlier. The state, in contrast, provided $3.5 million last year, down from $4.7 million two years ago.

Senate Republicans included a provision defunding Planned Parenthood in a “discussion draft” of their national health care reform bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act, unveiled Thursday. The House version of the bill, the American Health Care Act, included the same provision when it passed last month.

Planned Parenthood, which oversees an expansive network of women’s health clinics across the country, has long drawn the ire of many conservatives for providing abortion services. The organization says those services only amount to about 3 percent of its budget each year, and the law already bars using federal funds to provide them.

The remaining 97 percent, it says, goes toward tests for sexually transmitted diseases and infections, cancer screenings, contraception and other women’s health services.

Malloy included a provision is his February budget proposal to ensure these services would be preserved by allowing the state to pick up the federal government’s share of Medicaid reimbursements to family-planning clinics – like the ones operated by Planned Parenthood – if it is eliminated.

Other states already have adopted legislation to do so, with Maryland being the first in April. The proposal it adopted went one step farther than Malloy’s in that it explicitly guaranteed Planned Parenthood would receive additional state funding. Malloy’s proposal would leave it to his discretion.

The General Assembly adjourned its regular session earlier this month without approving the proposal, but Malloy is continuing to advocate for its inclusion in the two-year state budget that is being crafted in special session, said Meg Green, a spokeswoman for the governor.

That budget, however, faces a projected $5.1 billion deficit over the next two fiscal years, which has made even the smallest requests for additional funding controversial. However, there is some bipartisan support for at least exploring the possibility of increasing the state’s contribution.

“We have to look at what ultimately does come out of Washington, and then look at what Connecticut citizens want and what Connecticut citizens will need,” said Sen. Kevin Kelly, R-Stratford, co-chair of the legislature’s Insurance Committee.

Even if the provision explicitly allowing additional funds for Planned Parenthood is not included in the final version of the state budget, the governor would still have some options.

Chris McClure, a spokesman for the governor’s budget office, said Malloy could direct the Department of Social Services to shift money from the state share of the Medicaid budget to cover the difference. Other state dollars potentially could be used as well, he said, if committing them to Planned Parenthood “would be consistent with the intent of the legislature when it appropriated the funds.”

“We think it could be argued that support of Planned Parenthood is within the governor’s authority,” McClure said.

“The cleanest way to proceed would be to adopt an approach similar to Maryland’s,” McClure added. “The next best approach would be to absorb any cost through an existing appropriation that supports programs/services similar to those of Planned Parenthood.”

Washington correspondent Ana Radelat contributed to this reporting.

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