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500K TN women could lose medical services, Planned Parenthood says

500K TN women could lose medical services, Planned Parenthood says
Updated: Jun. 25, 2018 at 5:38 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A policy change in Tennessee could cut medical services for more than 500,000 women, according to Planned Parenthood.

State lawmakers passed a bill that keeps TennCare money out of the hands of any provider who provides abortion services.

Under that new law, thousands of women would be affected.

"This is about taking rights and opportunities away from people in order to meet a political agenda," Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi CEO Ashley Coffield said.

She along with other advocates just got back from a public hearing in Nashville to sound off about the state's proposed TennCare changes.

"We know that there are not enough providers who accept TennCare to serve the need for TennCare services," Coffield said.

Before the new law passed, TennCare money could not be used on abortions. Now the money can't be used on any service that happens at a health care provider that offers abortion services.

"Because we have not expanded Medicaid, Planned Parenthood services act as a stopgap for things like a mammogram, a pap smear, being able to get HIV services," SisterReach CEO Charisse Scott said.

SisterReach is a Memphis non-profit that works to increase education about sexual health. Scott worries about a lack of access to medical care for some of the state's poorest residents.

"This makes no sense to cut them off from a willing and qualified provider to help them with their preventative healthcare needs," Scott said.

Coffield said thousands of people in the Memphis area use Planned Parenthood clinics for essential health procedures and testing.

Coffield declined to release a specific dollar figure but confirmed if the money goes away, some Planned Parenthood services and staff will disappear too.

TennCare is currently in a public comment phase with respect to this.

Then the information will go to the federal government for another public comment phase through Medicaid.

TennCare released the following statement about the new policy:

"While it is theoretically true that any TennCare enrollee in need of family planning services could elect to seek services from these providers today, in practice, fewer than 1,500 TennCare enrollees received TennCare services from these providers in 2017.

...

Once the public comment period is over and the proposed waiver amendment is submitted to CMS, CMS is not held to any particular regulatory deadline for approving or denying such an amendment. In our experience, a 6-8 month review process is common."

Gov. Bill Haslam has not replied to request for comment on this situation.

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