January 6, 2011 — Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin has been removed from a program offering preventive health screenings to uninsured women in four counties, state Department of Health Services Secretary Dennis Smith recently announced, the Fond du Lac Reporter reports. PPWI's future with the program had been in question since Dec. 1, when a DHS official told the organization that it would end its contract at the end of 2011 (Roznik, Fond du Lac Reporter, 1/2).
The Wisconsin Well Woman Program provides uninsured women ages 45 to 64 with referrals and no-cost screenings for breast cancer, cervical cancer and multiple sclerosis. PPWI was one of several contractors the state used to coordinate and provide the services. The $1.8 million program is a state-federal partnership (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/19/11).
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) said the move was made because Planned Parenthood is "too controversial." He said, "There are many clinics that are not as controversial as Planned Parenthood, and our goal was to make sure low-income women had access to those sorts of screenings from other providers around the state that don't carry the controversy you get with Planned Parenthood."
DHS has asked PPWI to continue with the program until the end of February. PPWI President and CEO Teri Huyck said gaps in services became clear last month, forcing the state to backtrack on its decision to end the contract Jan. 1.
Doug Gieryn, director of the Winnebago County Health Department, stepped forward to oversee the program in Fond du Lac, Outagamie, Sheboygan and Winnebago counties when the state did not provide a solution to address the gap in services. "On behalf of the four counties and eight health department jurisdictions impacted by this commitment, I wish to communicate that we all disagree with the timelines, manner and intent to exclude Planned Parenthood from administering the program in our areas," Gieryn said (Fond du Lac Reporter, 1/2).