by David Ramsey
Planned Parenthood of the Heartland — which serves patients in Arkansas as well as Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Iowa — sent the following responses to our questions on the Affordable Care Act's guides program. The group applied to the Arkansas Insurance Department to provide seven outreach workers to help people sign up for health insurance and was found to be a qualified vendor by the Office of State Procurement, but the contract has been delayed due to objections from Republican lawmakers.
On why the group wants to participate in the guides program and believes they would be qualified to do so:
This program will increase access to the ACA and reduce the number of uninsured Arkansans. Planned Parenthood plays a critical role in reaching the families who need affordable health care the most. We reach a number of young, low income adults who will be seeking health insurance in the exchange. It’s vital to provide outreach, education and enrollment information to Arkansans to ensure the Affordable Care Act is implemented in an effective, meaningful way.
On constitutional issues if the contract is denied:
We cannot speculate about the legal ramifications of a decision that may or may not be made. We are working to the best of our ability to provide any and all information needed so that we will be approved as a vendor.
We believe that Planned Parenthood of the Heartland is a qualified contractor in the state of Arkansas. We sent our Legal & Public Policy director to Arkansas on Friday to meet with the insurance commissioner to discuss any questions about our application. We will continue to provide information as best we can to move this process forward. We cannot speculate about the status of the contract, however, so suggest you contact the insurance commissioner's office.
Insurance Commissioner Jay Bradford said Planned Parenthood will "submit some more specific wording on what their mission would be," in an attempt to make it as explicit as possible that guide activities won't be connected to abortion in any way. He noted that guides will not be current employees of the vendors but new, temporary hires "employed specifically for that mission."
Bradford said it was unclear whether AID would go forward with a contract with Planned Parenthood or not. "We haven't made any agreement at this stage," he said. "We'll see what they submit."