Dollars and Sense

Among the many reductions in the Governor’s January budget, one that has vexed many is a proposed cut to reimbursements paid to providers of family planning services in the Family PACT Program. The cut would save the state $15.5 million, but cause the state to lose nearly five times as much in matching federal dollars. Forgoing $73.4 million in federal dollars for this program through the end of 2010-11 runs contrary to the Governor’s stated goal of reeling in additional federal dollars for California, particularly for programs that work.

California’s Family PACT program offers low-income women and men, and teenage girls – regardless of income – comprehensive family planning services, including contraception and pregnancy testing, as well as testing for sexually transmitted diseases and some cancer screening services. In 2007-08, the program served 1.7 million clients. One of the key goals of the program is to reduce unintended pregnancies. The University of California, San Francisco Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health estimates that the program helped to avert nearly 250,000 unintended pregnancies in 2005-06, the last year for which this analysis was performed. The program does not provide abortions.

The economics of this program make sense. First, for certain services and clients, the state receives a $9 federal match for every $1 it spends. Second, a University of California, San Francisco study showed that the state saved a total of $2.2 billion in reduced medical and social service costs over five years for pregnancies averted in 2002, when approximately 1.5 million clients were served. That amounts to $5.33 in state savings for every $1 spent helping families avoid unintended pregnancies that year.

The Administration often argues that while it does not like having to reduce programs, California can no longer afford them. But reviewing the real economic benefits of a program such as Family PACT, the question should really be: Will California be better able to afford such a program five years from now, after the social and personal costs of not having such a program mount?

— Hanh Kim Quach

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