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Questions Remain Over Decline In Use Of Iowa's Family Planning Program

Public officials aren't sure why there's been a sharp decline in the use of a state family planning program, which excludes clinics that have abortion services.

Public officials say they're not sure why there has been a sharp decline in the number of people in Iowa using a state family planning program. 

According to a Department of Human Services report presented at a council meeting on Wednesday, 1,502 people used the program in 2018, a sharp drop from nearly 5,857 in 2017.

DHS Director Kelly Garcia said more information is needed to figure out the reasons for the decline.

She said she's concerned there aren't enough providers across the state and would like to work with the Department of Public Health to map provider locations.

"If we have a comprehensive map that will show us where we need to focus our efforts to increase our provider access, which will increase our client access," Garcia said. "And right now I don’t have the data points around where that might be."

The state legislature created the program that provides reproductive services to Iowans in 2017. It provides reproductive services at clinics across the state, excluding those that provide abortions. It replaced the Iowa Family Planning Network waiver program and excluded the state's eight Planned Parenthood clinics.

DHS officials said at the meeting one reason for the decline is that more Iowans have health coverage through the Affordable Care Act.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Gov. Kim Reynolds said the reason for the drop was "a kind of shift" to the state's Medicaid program.

"If you look at the family services provided through Medicaid, there’s actually been an increase in the number served and resources provided," Reynolds said.

According to the report, nearly 6,900 Iowans enrolled in Medicaid Family Planning Services from 2017 to 2018, but it's unknown if that increase is related to the state's family planning program.

Iowa Planned Parenthood President Erin Davison-Rippey told the Des Moines Register the drop shows "that this program is not working."

DHS officials said they plan to release the program's numbers for 2019 next July.

 
 

Natalie Krebs is IPR's Health Reporter