Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Why Washington Should Cut “Take Charge”

I know, I know. You have no idea what Take Charge is, much less have an opinion on why it should lose its funding. But that’s what we’re here for: enlightenment. Regardless, when you’re staring down a $5 billion budget deficit, it isn’t that hard to make the case that something should lose its funding.

Take Charge is a tax-payer funded program that pays for contraception. While the majority of the funds come from the federal government, millions of state dollars are spent on the program every biennium. According to the Feminist Women’s Health Center, the goal of Take Charge is to help people have the tools to reduce unintended pregnancies which will save on the state’s expense of paying for labor and delivery.

In theory, this seems plausible. We all recognize that it is less expensive not to have children than to have children. While we should question the long-term wisdom of perpetual efforts to reduce the number of children born, possible short-term budget benefits seem possible.

Therefore, the program could be considered a success if the cost of the program was offset by even greater reductions in spending on live births and abortions. This has not happened.

While taxpayers spend $15 - $20 million each year on Take Charge, (most of which comes from federal sources) the state pays much more to deliver babies than it did previously. In fact, since take charge has been operating,Washington State’s spending on live birth’s through Medicaid increased from $200 million to nearly $340 million in 2009. Costs to the state from live birth’s have grown more then 70% since Take Charge was created. It seems fair to say that the program is not saving tax dollars by preventing pregnancies.

Of course it is not disappointing that babies are being born. It just seems fairly obvious that these expenditures are not accomplishing their stated purpose.

Even though taxpayers aren’t seeing any benefit from the program, that doesn’t mean no one benefits. It has done wonders for Planned Parenthood. The program has expanded their customer base to such an extent that more then half of Planned Parenthood’s client’s are now Take Charge enrollees.(see page 2) Because they know that 10% of all women who receive their contraceptives will ultimately become pregnant, they not only benefit from the taxpayer subsidies for the contraceptives, but they also do 11% more abortions previous to Take Charge being implemented.

The growth of their customer base has done wonders for their financial situation as well. In 1999, when Take Charge was created, Planned Parenthood of Western Washington, the largest of the five Planned Parenthood regions in Washington, had $5.5 million in revenue. (see page 9 line 17) In 2008, after 8 years of Take Charge, their revenues had jumped to $27.3 million. (page 2 line 9) Not bad for a “non-profit”.

Given that Planned Parenthood in Washington has profited so significantly from this program, it is understandable that they would defend its continued existence despite the lack of return to taxpayers. Perhaps that explains why they, along with their friends at NARAL (the National Abortion Rights Action League), spent more than $1.2 million between 2008 and 2010 on Washington State elections.

In light of the $5 billion deficit the state is facing, the Governor has proposed cuts to virtually every area of government. Social services took some of the biggest hits. The cuts include General Assistance-Unemployable, which provides assistance to those who are physically or mentally handicapped in a way that makes them unemployable. The budget also reduces the number of children eligible for state health care coverage, eliminates dental coverage for adults, cuts school-based medical services, cuts interpreter services, as well as vision, podiatry, and hearing coverage for adults.

However, one thing the governor’s budget does not cut is Take Charge. Please raise your hand if you would rather pay for a college girl’s contraceptives than food for the handicapped or dental coverage for the poor. Me either.

There is a massive budget deficit. The state will cut a lot of spending that is not controversial but is unaffordable. Take charge fails to accomplish its stated goal of saving the tax payers money. There is no reason Take Charge should continue to be funded.

To Contact your Legislators about this, or any other issue, please call the Legislative Hotline at 1-800-562-6000. Through this number, you can contact your legislators even if you don’t know who they are. We suggest you put it into your phone for future reference.

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