Esty visits Torrington’s Planned Parenthood clinic to discuss effects of GOP health plan on care
TORRINGTON- Planned Parenthood clinics provide a range of health care services for men and women across Litchfield County and the country as a whole, a significant majority of which are not related to abortion, according to a published report from National Public Radio.
If its funding is cut, as proposed under health care plans put forward by House and Senate Republicans, it will likely bar Americans from receiving care, U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-Connecticut, and representatives of the organization said Monday, affecting both their short-term and long-term futures.
Services provided at the clinic, according to Tammy Hreha, center manager at the Torrington clinic, and Susan Yolen, vice-president for Policy and Advocacy with Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, include HIV treatment, reproductive planning and screenings for breast and cervical cancer, among other a variety of others.
At least 50 percent of Planned Parenthood’s patients are on Medicaid, Hreha said Monday, which lines up with figures statewide, according to Yolen.
Esty said Monday that the mission of Planned Parenthood has been important to her for a number of years and began in her youth, when she volunteered at a clinic as a college student.
“I felt so strongly about the importance of healthy pregnancies, and choosing when you’re going to have children,” said Esty. “Having that be a conscious choice — a family decision, not one that just happens. I knew too many young women that it just happened to, and it changed their lives in ways that wasn’t what they wanted, and wasn’t the future they sought for themselves.”
The organization, she said, has provided a place for women to receive quality care in the last century, without prejudice about identity or history.
“It’s been a very accepting, safe place for women to get quality care,” said Esty.
The loss of access to that care offered by the clinic, Esty said, could prompt similar effects to what has happened in Texas in recent years, where the state legislature diminished funding to such services by more than $73 million in 2011 — from $111.5 million to $37.9 million.
A total of 82 health care clinics closed in Texas as a result, according to the Washington Post, about one-third of which were affiliated with Planned Parenthood.
This may have had an effect on the number of women who died in childbirth — a rate which doubled in Texas from “18.6 per hundred thousand live births to 35.8” between 2010 and 2014, according to The New Yorker.
Esty called for Republican lawmakers, as U.S. Rep. John Larson, D-Connecticut also did last week in New Hartford, to come to the table to work on a bipartisan plan for the future of healthcare in the U.S., including issues with the Affordable Care Act, and helping address the opioid epidemic in this country.
She suggested allowing the negotiation of prescription drug prices under the Medicare program as an example of a potential fix.
“That would actually help change the overall cost structure for prescription drugs in this country,” Esty said. “That’s the fastest-growing part of our healthcare dollars is in the prescription drugs — everybody knows it.”
Congress will be back in session Tuesday, Esty said, to continue the debate.
“We all are concerned about whether premiums are affordable,” said Esty. “But we shouldn’t be losing these wonderful gains that we’ve made, that have made people’s lives better, and allowed people to be healthier. And that’s the bottom line, for people to lead healthier, happier lives.”
Yolen said she was pleased that Esty had come out to consider the concerns of the organization, and that she hoped members of Congress would keep the cost of diminishing access to such services as consideration if the bill moves forward.
“Coverage is really important. It means that when you’re covered, you will actually go for preventive visits, and you’ll save your own health, you’ll save your own money, you’ll save our society and our state budget money,” said Yolen. “And I think it’s common sense. It’s a shame that it’s become this pitched battle — certainly in other countries and cultures it isn’t... [W]e hope that folks in Congress can keep that in mind, and make sure that we protect our care.”
The future of the Better Care Reconciliation Act is in doubt, as it is unclear whether Senate Republicans will be able to garner the votes necessary to approve the bill. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell signaled willingness to rework the bill Friday.
Issues prompting some Republican members of the Senate, including Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, to oppose the bill include the defunding of Planned Parenthood.