Beginning in January 2022, Empower Missouri is proud to announce that we’ll be joining The Right Time Initiative as a community mobilization partner. The Right Time is a multi-year initiative, funded by Missouri Foundation for Health, that is based on the simple belief that everyone should have the opportunity to pursue the future they want, including if, when, and under what circumstances to get pregnant. The initiative aims to empower individuals to take control of their own health by improving information about, and removing barriers to, contraceptive services, recognizing that decisions always rest with the patient.
At its core, Empower Missouri is an anti-poverty organization. Earlier this year, we redefined our organizational theory of change, and we are exceedingly clear that six determinants of poverty (affordable housing, food security, mass incarceration, childcare costs/accessibility, unemployment/underemployment, and healthcare costs/accessibility) are deeply intertwined. In each of our coalitions, we are working to increasingly highlight these intersections and build resolve to tackle these issues together, rather than separately. Access to contraception is a key part of quality, affordable healthcare and a key lever to decreasing poverty across the state.
The costs of both birthing and raising a child in this country are astronomical. Current cost estimates to raise a child from birth to age 18 are frequently between $250,000 and $300,000 per child. All families need quality family planning services in order to choose how many children (if any) they want and when they are financially ready to care for those children. Therefore, Empower will actively be educating each of our coalitions on The Right Time’s policy goals over the course of the next year and asking our coalition members to consider lending their support to policies such as:
- Ensuring Medicaid expansion is implemented efficiently and structured to provide the best care possible to all who need it;
- Enacting contraceptive equity legislation, including Annual-Supply Birth Control;
- Streamlining and improve the Women’s Health Services Program (WHSP), including simplifying its application process;
- Maintaining state funding for WHSP and remove any provider restrictions;
- Promoting the WHSP;
- Improving confidential billing practices; and
- Defending against legislation that will negatively impact family planning providers.
We believe that all of these policy goals have strong anti-poverty implications. Empower has consistently served as an advocate for Medicaid expansion, and it is already part of our overall policy agenda to ensure smooth implementation by protecting funding for all eligible recipients. Families and individuals without access to health insurance can face financial crisis when diagnosed with an acute and/or long-term health condition. Unanticipated healthcare costs drive tens of thousands of people into poverty across the country each year. And, individuals who are already facing poverty are far more likely to be diagnosed with chronic health conditions such as heart problems, diabetes, and obesity, making their healthcare coverage life-saving as well as fiscally responsible for the state. Medicaid expansion implementation is a critical tool to both prevent and remediate poverty in our state. And, as previously stated, access to contraception is a key part of quality, affordable healthcare and a key lever to decreasing poverty across the state.
We will also be partnering with our coalition members who are direct service providers around the state to distribute The Right Time materials to their clients, including direct referral information to local healthcare providers who are committed to the aims of the The Right Time initiative. If you are interested in receiving materials, please email Policy & Advocacy Director Sarah Owsley at [email protected]. For more information on The Right Time Initiative, visit https://therighttime.org/.