SEATTLE — Planned Parenthood says funding challenges have forced it to close three locations in Western Washington this year in Seattle, Kent, and Shelton.
The closures impact about 7,000 clients.
The organization says the biggest reason for the closure is because Washington state has fallen behind neighboring states when it comes to funding – specifically when it comes to Medicaid reimbursements.
Now, Planned Parenthood is calling on lawmakers to act before it needs to shut down more locations.
The three locations closed at the end of February.
“What, that’s crazy!” said Ky Maquindang, who lives in Kent. “I didn’t even know they were closed,” she said.
She said she and others from the area have relied on Planned Parenthood for all sorts of health services, from family planning to accessing basic feminine supplies.
“They give out tampons and stuff, too. There’s not a lot of people that can afford it just like at the regular grocery store,” Maquindang said.
“They were also the place I go to if I needed to get a pregnancy test,” she said.
Planned Parenthood said the decision to close the three locations was very difficult.
“It was gut wrenching. I lost a lot of sleep,” said Rebecca Gibron, chief operating officer of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. “We had no choice but to close these health centers,” she said.
All three locations served many people of color – particularly in Shelton and Kent.
“In Shelton we have a rural population, immigrant population, Latino population. In Kent, we have a much more diverse population of patients who’ve moved out because of the affordability issues in Seattle,” said Sharon Dudash, vice president of patient services of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands.
Gibson says here’s a big piece of the problem: Washington state Medicaid reimbursements are about 20% less than Oregon, and 30% less than Idaho, based on fee schedules for common visits.
Plus, Planned Parenthood is one of the only organizations that does not cap how many Medicaid patients they see. The organization said on average, each Medicaid patient visit means they lose about $167.
“The reality is we need Washington state to pay their fair share of the bill because without it, people will go without very important reproductive health care,” Gibson said. “Abortion rates will go up. We will see more unplanned pregnancies in the state of Washington if Medicaid reimbursements don’t go up,” she said.
Planned Parenthood said it has not selected any other locations to shut down, but added they are working on a contingency plan, if it comes to that.
Governor Inslee has allocated about $5 million over the next two years in the budget to help fix this problem of low reimbursements. It’s something lawmakers still need to approve.
The $5 million from Washington state would be matched with nearly $11 million in funding from the federal government. Any federal funding would not be used to finance abortion services .
Rep. Emily Wicks from Everett said in a statement Tuesday that the services Planned Parenthood provides are too valuable to lose and it’s an issue she and other lawmakers are working on. Wicks said in a statement:
“Crafting a state budget always comes down to weighing competing needs, and there are always more needs than there are dollars. But the many services that Planned Parenthood provides to the women, girls, and families in our state at low or no cost are far too valuable to lose. I’m just one of many lawmakers who are working hard to find a way to increase our investments in Planned Parenthood without short-changing other vital needs.”
Cox Media Group