Saturday, Jan. 10


Public Aid initiative to help women
with basic health coverage    
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[JAN. 10, 2004]  SPRINGFIELD -- In an effort to help women leaving the Medicaid program better prepare for economic independence by avoiding unintended pregnancies and reproductive health problems, Gov. Rod Blagojevich announced Jan. 5 that the Illinois Department of Public Aid will offer family planning services to 120,000 women each year under a federally funded, five-year demonstration project.

The Illinois Healthy Women program, which will be launched in early 2004, will offer women comprehensive reproductive health care coverage, including annual physicals, Pap smears, mammograms, contraceptives and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.

"This new program will help women to have greater control over their lives at a time when they are focused on obtaining economic security for their families," said Blagojevich. "It gives them the tools to better control the timing of their pregnancies and will improve the health of both moms and children."

The expansion is part of the Blagojevich administration's effort to focus on health care for children and families. Other family-focused initiatives include the expansion in 2003 of the KidCare and FamilyCare health insurance programs for children and parents.

The two primary goals of Illinois Healthy Women are to offer women tools to prevent unplanned pregnancies and to assist women making the transition from welfare to work.

According to Department of Public Health statistics, about two-thirds of Medicaid births are the result of unintended pregnancies. Studies show that the use of family planning services reduces a low-income woman's probability of pregnancy by 79 percent. Often, a woman's attempts to enter the work force can be derailed by unplanned pregnancies.

The agency estimates that in the first five years the effort will prevent 6,600 unplanned pregnancies, making about $9.2 million available to be used for other services in the state's Medicaid program. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will reimburse the state for 90 percent of the cost of family planning services.


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"The strategy is to pay now and save later, while improving women's and children's overall health," said Director of Public Aid Barry S. Maram. "Family planning services can improve spacing between pregnancies, which leads to more healthy mothers and children. The evidence shows that short intervals between pregnancies lead to higher mortality rates for both mothers and infants."

The program will be open to Illinois residents aged 19-44 who are either U.S. citizens or qualified noncitizens. Eligible women leaving Medicaid will be automatically enrolled in the program for three months but must indicate they want to remain in the program after the initial period.

Covered services will include:

  • An initial physical, with patient education about reproductive health and family planning options, including natural family planning.
  • Annual physical exam for reproductive health, including a Pap smear.
  • Needed lab tests and mammograms.
  • Contraceptive drugs and supplies, plus insertion and removal of devices.
  • Tubal ligation.
  • Tests and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Transportation to and from medical care.
  • Referrals for primary care services through a well-developed network of providers.

"Last July, Governor Blagojevich signed into law a bill that provides ‘contraceptive equity' for women. Now private health insurance plans are required to cover FDA-approved contraceptives for women," said Penny Daly, Governor's Women's Commission executive director. "The governor is to be applauded for his latest initiative, Illinois Healthy Women, and his continuing efforts to help ensure that all women have access to health care and the tools necessary to care for their reproductive health."

[News release from the governor's office]

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