Almost half of all pregnancies in Michigan are unintended, and it’s possible that those pregnancies could have been prevented with the aid of proper planning.
Frequently, birth control and subsequent reproductive health services fall by the wayside due to high costs. Forgoing birth control and routine health care can have expensive and dangerous results. But there is good news: Free family planning assistance is available.
Plan First!, a federally funded program, is run by the Michigan Department of Community Health. It provides free family planning services to eligible women age 19-44, who are not already pregnant and who would not otherwise have coverage for these services. There are no co-pays or monthly premiums for those participating in the program.
Originally created in 2006, the program is already helping approximately 36,000 women, but it has the resources to help a total of 200,000 women who meet the eligibility requirements. The qualifying demographic even includes some women who have insurance coverage that fails to cover family planning services.
In order to be eligible for services, you must be a U.S. citizen or qualified immigrant, a Michigan resident, meet a certain income requirement and cannot be receiving Medicaid.
Only 18 percent of the women in Michigan who qualify for this program take advantage of the services it has to offer. Simply put, not enough women are using a program designed to help them.
When I recently learned of this program, I couldn’t have been more enthusiastic about it. There is almost nothing more beneficial than providing women with birth control, family planning and reproductive health care, free of charge. And though it might seem too good to be true, it really has the potential to help many more women than it already does.
Although the umbrella term “family planning” seems simple, Plan First! actually provides its participants with coverage for a number of vital services. It covers office visits for family planning services (including pre-natal and post-natal care), prescriptions for birth control, contraceptive supplies and devices, lab tests, treatments for sexually transmitted infections and some sterilizations for women 21 and older. It does not cover abortion services or infertility treatments.
For women, especially those in the college age bracket, this service is invaluable. It provides birth control at an affordable rate, something which has been a long time coming. For some, even those with health insurance, birth control costs can be high, sometimes in excess of $50 a month. And for a college student already struggling to stay afloat, these costs can become too much, even though they pale in comparison to the cost of raising a child.
It also covers costs associated with necessary preventative care, which can help women avoid or remedy some more serious diseases. Treating these diseases or infections early can thwart further medical complications down the road and further costs incurred by those complications. It is crucial for women to receive reproductive health care early in life, before any problems arise.
This program not only benefits women in Michigan, but also the state as a whole. The more unintended pregnancies that are prevented, the more money the state can save. According to a speech given by Gov. Jennifer Granholm in 2006, if the number of those unintended pregnancies is decreased by just 10 percent, the state can save $27 million in Medicaid expenditures. Preventing unintended pregnancies can also lead to lower infant mortality rates and reduce child abuse and neglect.
Women should take the time to apply, so they don’t jeopardize their health or complicate their futures with unintended pregnancies.