Planned Parenthood banned from Texas’ Women’s Health Program
If there was any hope that the state was seeking a compromise with the federal government over Texas’ Women’s Health Program, it’s fading fast. At the direction of lawmakers and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Texas Health and Human Services commissioner signed a rule on Thursday that formally bans Planned Parenthood clinics and other “affiliates of abortion providers” from participating in the program — something the Obama administration has said is a deal-breaker for the nearly $40 million-per-year state-federal Medicaid program.
“The Obama Administration is trying to force Texas to violate our own state laws or they will end a program that provides preventative health care to more than 100,000 Texas women,” said Allison Castle, a spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Perry. “This boils down to the rule of law – which the state of Texas respects and the Obama Administration does not.
The rule, signed by Commissioner Tom Suehs on Thursday, takes effect March 14. Unless some last-minute agreement is brokered, the program, which receives $9 in federal funds for every $1 in state funds, will be either phased out or cut off by the end of March. At least 130,000 poor Texas women will lose access to cancer screenings, well-woman exams and contraception.
‘No one’s politics should interfere with a woman’s access to health care,” said Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast President and CEO Peter J. Durkin. “It is shameful that Governor Perry and Commissioner Suehs continue to politicize lifesaving breast cancer screenings and birth control access for low-income women.”
…when Texas was faced with renewing the Women’s Health Program this year, officials with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said the state’s plans violated the Social Security Act. They gave the program a three-month extension, but said they had no intention of renewing if Planned Parenthood, which provides 44 percent of the program’s services, was blacklisted.
The stalemate appears unbreakable — Republican lawmakers have made clear they’d rather forgo the program and the federal money than allow Planned Parenthood to participate.
More from the Austin Chronicle:
“This is no small issue for Texas, where more than half of all births are paid for by Medicaid – in 2009 alone that cost $2.9 billion. The first year of the program, in 2007, the WHP served 91,683 women; by 2010, the program served 183,537. HHSC estimates that the number of women served in 2011 (those final numbers aren’t ready yet) will show the program grew again.
And although there are some 1,600 WHP providers across the state, in 2010, PP served 46% of all WHP clients – that is, more than 84,000 women.
Now, though it appears the gains made via the WHP will disappear. At issue is a new rule that redefines the word “affiliate” in order to exclude any PP clinic from participation in the WHP. Essentially, the new rule defines affiliate such that PP clinics that do not perform abortions are considered affiliates of clinics that do – even if that affiliation is simply the shared name. “