AP Photo/Nick Ut
- Planned Parenthood announced plans to expand its telehealth app "Planned Parenthood Direct" which offers birth control home delivery, prescriptions for UTI treatments, and other health and educational services for people in the US.
- The app currently operates in 27 states and D.C., and will be live in all 50 states by the end of 2020.
- The expansion of the telehealth app comes in the wake of President Trump’s "gag rule" policy which prohibits family planning clinics that provide abortion services or referrals from receiving $286 million in federal funding.
- Since Planned Parenthood decided not to comply with this new policy, the organization lost $60 million in federal funding, possibly affecting 1.5 million people in the US.
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Planned Parenthood is making plans to help more people get access to birth control and other medical treatments, as the organization faces challenges on a number of fronts.
The organization is expanding its "Planned Parenthood Direct" telehealth app to the entire US by the end of next year. The app is currently available in 27 states and D.C., and offers services like birth control delivery and treatment for urinary tract infections (UTIs).
"Planned Parenthood is continually looking for new ways to reach people with the care they need," Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement. "As politicians across the country try to restrict or block access to critical reproductive and sexual health care, the Planned Parenthood Direct app is just one part of the work we do to ensure that more people can get the care they need."
Planned Parenthood gets massive federal funding cut
About two weeks ago, Planned Parenthood had to forfeit $60 million in federal funding after withdrawing from a key program that funds family planning over new abortion-related restrictions. The organization is also looking for permanent leadership, after President Dr. Leana Wen was ousted by the board, after less than a year on the job.
Planned Parenthood withdrew from the federal program, called Title X, after the Trump Administration issued a regulation, known as the "gag rule," that prohibits family planning clinics that receive such funding from providing privately funded abortions or referring patients to abortion services.
Title X was established in 1970 and is a federal program that helps low-income and uninsured Americans access to family planning and reproductive care by giving grants to healthcare providers.
The organization could not comply with the rule, and therefore lost funding which could affect over 1.5 million people in the US, many of whom are uninsured and rely on Title X and Planned Parenthood’s services.
"We will not let this administration deter us from our mission," McGill Johnson said in a press conference call. "We are committed to breaking down barriers by leveraging tech with the most trusted care of our providers. We will fill the gaps of access to healthcare for people regardless of their zip code or income."
The telehealth app offers access to health services across the US
Courtesy of Planned Parenthood.
The app started as a pilot project in 2014, beginning in three densely populated states, California, Texas, and Flordia, proving to be successful. The app allows users to get prescription birth control pills delivered to their door, get UTI treatment sent to a nearby pharmacy, learn about different methods of birth control, and make an appointment at a Planned Parenthood health center.
The cost for birth control is about $20 per pack, the organization said. UTI visits cost about $15 to $25, while the cost of a prescription to treat the infection can range from about $4 to $60, depending on a patient’s insurance and which medicine they take.
Other health clinics have also withdrawn from Title X. Maine Family Planning, which runs 18 reproductive health clinic sites throughout the state, exited the program, giving up $2 million in funding or around 30% of its budget Business Insider reported.
Other startups and methods to increase access to health services and education
The purpose of expanding the app, which is free and can be downloaded on a smartphone, is to provide greater access to services like birth control. A number of other for-profit birth control startups have a similar mission.
"Millions of women live in contraception deserts," Joel Wishkovsky, the CEO and cofounder of the birth control delivery startup Simple Health, recently told Business Insider. "Oftentimes, so many of these people are struggling with cost and can’t afford the copay, or exam fees. We go into the heart of these contraception deserts to give them access to the healthcare they need."
Earlier this year, Planned Parenthood launched a sexual and reproductive health chatbot, called Roo, which provides people with answers to any of their questions 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The organization also has a program called Chat/Text, which offers people live conversations with trained educators via instant messages or text.
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