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Study: Iowa's publicly funded family planning is cost-effective

A recent study of Iowa's publicly-funded family planning services found that costs for such services to eligible women is considerably less than the cost of public assistance associated with an unintended pregnancy.

The results of the study by the University of Iowa Public Policy Center show that publicly funded family planning services are cost-effective for women who would use Medicaid and other public assistance programs if they became pregnant and gave birth.

"With the prevention of an unintended pregnancy, a significant amount of future public funding expenditure can be avoided," said lead researcher Belinda Udeh, assistant research scientist at the Public Policy Center.

The study focused on women being served by Iowa's publicly funded family planning clinics in 2009. Study co-authors were Mary Losch of the Center for Social and Behavioral Research and the Department of Psychology at the University of Northern Iowa and Erica Spies, a UI graduate research assistant.

The study based on data collected in 2009 also concluded that publicly funded family planning is most cost-effective for women under the age of 30. When considering forecasting the avoided expenditures for just one year for this age group, over $3 could be saved for every $1 spent on family planning services, Udeh said. The probability of averting a pregnancy need only be 2 percent for this age category for family planning services to be considered cost effective, she added.

The study further reported an overall weighted average for all age categories.  For women already receiving assistance, $3.40 could be avoided in the first year for every $1 spent on family planning services, and $10.84 when the savings are forecast for five years. The savings are even greater for women who would be newly eligible for assistance with savings of $3.78 and $15.12 for every $1 spent on family planning in one-year and five-year forecasts, respectively.

Examples of public funds avoided include welfare assistance, including Family Investment Program; food assistance; Women, Infants and Children Program; and Child Care Assistance, as well as medical assistance such as: prenatal and delivery reimbursements; pediatric reimbursements; maternal health reimbursements; and vaccines for children.

The State of Iowa has a Family Planning Waiver program that covers family planning services for women enrolled in Medicaid who would lose coverage postpartum and for women between the ages of 12 and 44 with incomes at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Services covered by the waiver include medically necessary services and supplies related to birth control, pregnancy prevention and preventive services.

Benefit-cost analysis of family planning services in Iowa has been conducted twice before, once in 1985 and one in 1992 with similar results, but the authors said an updated analysis needed to be conducted as costs and conditions have changed.

"As the resources available for healthcare continue to be stretched, we hope this analysis will help health policy makers prioritize the efficient and effective use of available funding," Udeh said.

To view the full study, go to http://ppc.uiowa.edu.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Belinda Udeh, UI Public Policy Center, 319-384-2852, belinda-udeh@uiowa.edu; George McCrory, UI News Services, 319-384-0012, george-mccrory@uiowa.edu

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