Newswise — Publicly funded clinics that provide women with reproductive health care save government money, a recent analysis concludes.

The government saves $4 for every $1 it spends providing family planning, researchers write in the August issue of the Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved.

The analysis, by researchers of the Guttmacher Institute in New York, reports that in 2004, an estimated 6.9 million women received contraceptive care from publicly supported family planning clinics. Assuming that 86 percent of those women received a contraceptive method, researchers conclude that such clinics averted 1.4 million unintended pregnancies.

The researchers estimated a net public savings of $4.3 billion in 2004. They reached that figure by "factoring in only the public-sector costs for maternity care, delivery and one year of infant-related care for those contraceptive clients who would be eligible for Medicaid maternity care in their state if they became pregnant." That year, $1.4 billion in public funding supported the provision of contraceptive care at the clinics.

The savings reflects such factors as the increasing costs of health care services as well an expansion of eligibility for Medicaid, said study co-author Lawrence Finer, director of domestic research for the Guttmacher Institute. By fiscal year 2001, Medicaid accounted for 61 percent of public dollars spent for contraceptive services — $770 million — about double the figure from 1994, according to institute figures. "At the same time, the costs of birth have gone up as well," Finer said.

The study methodology is sound, said Christina Fowler, a research analyst in reproductive health at RTI International in Research Park, N.C., who is not affiliated with the study.

Researchers have good reason to estimate cost savings of reproductive health clinics for low-income women, Fowler said: "Federal and state budgets are so tight it is important to demonstrate [the savings] for people who might be skeptical about the benefits that it is fiscally prudent. It is not only a good thing to do, it makes economic sense. It can really help depoliticize an issue."

Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved: Contact Editor Virginia M. Brennan at (615) 327-6819 or [email protected]. Online, visit

Frost JJ, Finer LB, Tapales A. The impact of publicly funded family planning clinic services on unintended pregnancies and government cost savings. Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved 19(3), 2008.

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Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved (Aug-2008)