Thursday, September 24, 2015

Defund in Haste, Pay Up Later

The current fuss over Planned Parenthood funding through the Medicaid program has a number of the usual suspects feigning outrage over deceitfully doctored videos. While it seems this cabal of Congress is simply manipulating headlines for electoral gain in a campaign season, there are real life consequences to Congressional actions that need to be part of the public debate.

If a House Freedom Caucus-mediated plan to defund Planned Parenthood for a year passed and became law (unlikely under an Obama veto promise) there would in fact be some immediate savings to the government, but at the cost of perhaps 25% of current Planned Parenthood clients losing access to reproductive services.

But one gift this Congress shares with all others is the ability to wildly extrapolate from insufficient data. If a one year suspension of Planned Parenthood funding is shown to reduce costs without increasing unplanned childbirth (likely enough, since a pregnancy lasts 9 months) it's easy to imagine a "more of the same" push to make defunding permanent. Therein lies the problem. As the Congressional Budget Office reported:
 ...the bill would increase direct spending for Medicaid by $20 million in 2016, by $130 million in 2017, and by $650 million over the 2016-2025 period. Most of the increased spending for the pregnancies that occur in 2016 will take place in 2017. Netting those costs against the savings estimated above, CBO estimates that implementing the bill would increase direct spending by $130 million over the 2016-2025 period.
I think funding for PP is safe - this year, anyway - but if there's a change in White House occupants come January of 2017 we may see this faux controversy erupt all over again - just in time for the 2018 midterms.

And that's really what this fuss is all about.

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