Two of the biggest issues facing the nation today are the economic strain felt by many citizens in the middle class, and health care costs and coverage.

That’s why I am so puzzled that some politicians are bent on defunding Planned Parenthood, which has an extremely positive impact on both these issues.

I stand squarely with Susan Collins, our respected senior U.S. senator from Maine, in supporting continued funding of Planned Parenthood.

What would “defunding” mean?

Defunding Planned Parenthood would prevent reimbursing the organization for services provided to patients insured by federal programs like Medicaid — basic health care like birth control, cancer screenings, disease testing and treatment and well-woman exams. These preventive services account for more than 95 percent of what Planned Parenthood does.

Abortion is not one of the services covered by federal funds. In Maine, more than 25 percent of patients are covered by Medicaid (known here as MaineCare).

Planned Parenthood is not a small, niche health care provider. It is a basic source of affordable, quality preventive care to 2.5 million people every year. One in five women nationwide and here in Maine will go to Planned Parenthood in their lifetime.

Maine’s four Planned Parenthood health centers see more than 10,000 patients a year. Two of their major services have an especially large and positive impact on improving women’s health and controlling costs to our health care system:

• Breast health exams (2,324 patients per year) and Pap tests for cervical cancer lead to early diagnosis of cancer, which enables it to be treated far more effectively and cheaply than in later stages.

• Birth control services (8,230 patients) prevent unwanted pregnancies that can have severe negative impacts on a young woman’s health – emotional, physical and financial. The benefits to taxpayers broadly are also clear: For every $1 invested in family planning programs, the government saves about $7.

More than half of Planned Parenthood’s patients in Maine live at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level, or $17,600 a year, and Planned Parenthood is their only access to the health care system. Last year, Planned Parenthood provided more than $3.5 million in free or discounted services to Maine people in need, many of them living in rural and medically underserved areas.

Without Planned Parenthood, low-income and often uninsured patients would be pushed to seek care for basic services in emergency rooms and private physicians, which would come at a much higher cost to the government and the taxpayer — or, worse than that, get no health care at all.

Defunding comes at a high cost.

The Congressional Budget Office projects that if Planned Parenthood were to be defunded, and no longer able to get reimbursed for services provided through Medicaid, taxpayers would be on the hook for $130 million over 10 years in increased health care costs.

As the federal government searches for effective cost-saving measures and states like Maine work to balance their budgets, preventive family planning policies provide real solutions and undeniable cost savings.

Planned Parenthood is not the problem; it’s part of the solution. Common-sense investments in family planning programs, like the basic services provided at Planned Parenthood, are cost-effective, reduce economic anxiety for women and families in the long run and contribute to our overall success as a country and state.

That’s why I, along with Sen. Susan Collins and many fellow Maine Republicans, strongly oppose defunding Planned Parenthood today, or in the foreseeable future.

Meredith Strang Burgess of Cumberland is a former Republican member of the Maine House of Representatives.