December 14, 2016
HHS Issues Final Regulation to Increase Access to Affordable Family Planning and Preventive Services
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a final rule to clarify the regulations for family planning services under Title X of the Public Health Service Act and protect access to family planning services. Title X is the only federal program focused solely on providing family planning and related preventive services.
“This rule will strengthen access to essential services like cancer screenings and contraception for some of the most vulnerable patients in this country,” said Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, Chief Medical Officer, Karen A. Scott, MD, MPH. “Public comments showed overwhelming support for finalizing the rule, which clarifies that all organizations able to provide these services should be eligible to compete for funds.”
Enacted in 1970 as part of the Public Health Service Act, the Title X Family Planning Program is a critical part of America’s public health safety net. For more than 40 years, Title X Family Planning Clinics have provided high quality, affordable, and cost-effective family planning and related preventive health services for women and men, with priority given to low-income patients. In 2015, through 91 grantees, a network of nearly 4,000 community-based clinics provided services to more than 4 million people each year.
These Title X-supported clinics play a critical role in ensuring access to confidential, voluntary family planning information and services to their patients. Title X clinics deliver a broad range of family planning methods and services with priority for services to low-income, uninsured, and underinsured individuals for free or at reduced cost. These services include screening for cervical and breast cancer, screening and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases (STD), HIV testing and referral for treatment, contraceptive services, pregnancy testing and counseling, preconception health services, services to aid with achieving pregnancy, and basic infertility services.
In the past several years, a number of states have taken actions to restrict participation by certain types of providers as subrecipients in the Title X Program, unrelated to the provider’s ability to provide family planning services. This has caused limitations in the geographic distribution of services and decreased access to services.
The final rule clarifies the Title X program regulations by adding that no grant recipient making subawards for the provision of services as part of its Title X project may prohibit an entity from participating for reasons other than its ability to provide Title X services.
HHS officials gave careful consideration to all comments received during the public comment period. The final rule summarized the breadth and scope of the comments received and articulates the Department’s responses to them.
The rule went on display today at the Federal Register and is available at: https://federalregister.gov/d/2016-30276
The regulation takes effect on January 18, 2017, 30 days after its publication in the Federal Register on December 19, 2016.