Planned Parenthood of Illinois expects a surge of new clients when the Affordable Care Act takes effect in January.
Under the Affordable Care Act, starting Jan. 1, 2014, the majority of uninsured Americans who have not had the opportunity to be insured before, whether because they work for a small business, have a pre-existing condition or another reason, will be able to choose an insurance plan.
“This new surge of thousands of people becoming insured is going to bring a lot of new clients to Planned Parenthood,” said Brigid Leahy, director of government relations at Planned Parenthood of Illinois. “We are ready and excited to help them.”
Planned Parenthood offers services to clients with or without insurance.
Some Planned Parenthoods in Chicago base their fees on the uninsured client’s income. Clients who have private insurance still have to pay premiums on their insurance.
One part of the act mandates that all private health insurance plans offer contraceptives and some other preventative services, such as mammograms and pap smears, without copays or deductibles, whether at Planned Parenthood or anywhere else that offers these services.
Some private insurance companies have already begun offering these services without copays, and some will begin in a few months.
Judy Sayad, project coordinator at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, said Planned Parenthood is an option for those who are covered by their parent’s insurance, but don’t want to use it for a gynecological visit to their family doctor, where the information will be easily accessible.
“Access is so open and nonjudgmental at Planned Parenthood,” Sayad said. “A lot of girls live in small towns and don’t want their parents knowing that they are getting tested for STDs or want birth control. Planned Parenthood is great for people looking for discretion.”
As summer approaches, so will public campaigns to educate uninsured people about their options for health care insurance enrollment, which begins in October in advance of the law’s effective date, Leahy said.
Details vary by plan, so Planned Parenthood encourages insured clients to call the member services number on the back of their health insurance card to educate themselves.
Another advantage of using Planned Parenthood for preventative care instead of a private physician: timing.
“Generally, Planned Parenthood is really great at getting people in and out quickly, because we know that with these issues, time is of the essence. Family planning isn’t a priority at a lot of gynecologists, whereas as, it is at Planned Parenthood,” Leahy said.
One client of Planned Parenthood, Octavia Nunez, 21, said the welcoming nature of the organization, specifically how both men and women may be open about their sexual past and present, is what especially resonates with her.
“There is no need to be embarrassed by how many partners you've been with, how often you have sex or what gender you have sex with,” Nunez said. “The nurses and doctors don't care. They've heard all the weird stuff you can imagine humans do sexually.”
Dr. Melissa Gilliam, professor of obstetrics/gynecology and pediatrics at the University of Chicago, said the prevalence and convenience of Planned Parenthood are reasons why it’s suitable for those who are uninsured.
“There’s a Planned Parenthood in pretty much every neighborhood,” Dr. Gilliam said. “I know the college students who work for me say that during their time of no insurance they were so appreciative of the low cost, high quality care they received.”