The battle has gone down like this. Republicans crafted a new rule that is designed to exclude Planned Parenthood from participation in the Women’s Health Program. The WHP is a Medicaid-waiver program that provides basic healthcare and family planning services to low-income and uninsured women who would not otherwise be eligible for Medicaid unless pregnant. WHP was designed to increase access to preventative health care for women and to reduce the number of births paid by Medicaid.
It’s done both with great success.
Texas currently has about 1,600 WHP providers located across the state and in 2010 Planned Parenthood served 46% of all WHP clients, estimated at more than 84,000 women.
Planned Parenthood effectively provides half of all WHP services across the state of Texas, which is no small service in a state where more than half of all births are paid for Medicaid. In 2007, the first year of the program, the WHP served 91,683 women; by 2010 the program served 183,537 women. Those are women who would otherwise end up on Medicaid because of their pregnancy.
Those gains are now at risk. The rule approved today redefines the word “affiliate” in order to exclude any Planned Parenthood clinic from participation in WHP by defining “affiliate” so that Planned Parenthood clinics that do not perform abortions are considered affiliates of clinics that do, even if that affiliation is nothing more than a shared name.
Planned Parenthood gave the following statement:
“No one’s politics should interfere with a woman’s access to health care. It is shameful that Governor Perry and Commissioner Suehs continue to politicize lifesaving breast cancer screenings and birth control access for low-income women.
“The State’s actions have put the entire Medicaid Women’s Health Program (WHP) and the health care of 130,000 of our state’s most vulnerable women, many of them single mothers, in serious jeopardy. The federal government has already indicated that if Texas violated Medicaid law, the future of the entire program would be at risk.
“Last year, nearly 17,000 women enrolled in WHP received their annual exams, birth control and lifesaving cancer screenings from trusted providers at PPGC health centers in Houston and Southeast Texas. Today the State of Texas has taken away their health care and their trusted provider.
“Texas women and Texas taxpayers need this program. The Medicaid Women’s Health Program saves lives, prevents unintended pregnancies and saves taxpayer dollars. For many women, Medicaid WHP is their only source of health care. Texas already leads the nation in the number of uninsured families. Now Perry’s most recent move to adopt this rule means that 130,000 additional Texas women stand to lose access to basic, lifesaving care that helps them stay healthy and plan their pregnancies, and taxpayers will be left footing the bill for millions of dollars in ballooning Medicaid costs related to the loss of this program.
“This move is not supported by the medical community, as Bruce Malone, President of the Texas Medical Association, has publicly called this a “political” move, noting there is not “another safety net for these women for medical care.” [Texas Tribune, January 2012]
“Playing politics with the lives and health of Texas women is unacceptable. Planned Parenthood is committed to the health of Texas women and is evaluating all possible actions to protect this essential program and health care access for the 130,000 women who rely on it.”
Texas believes it has the authority to do this as part of its management of its Medicaid program. But the federal government, which runs Medicaid disagrees and told Texas this rule would not meet requirements for funding, which means a loss in $40 million per-year.
Unless some last-minute agreement is worked out the program will either be phased out or cut off by the end of March. This means at least 130,000 poor Texas women will lose access to cancer screenings, well-woman exams and contraception all to satisfy the conservative vendetta against Planned Parenthood.
Photo from badlyricpolice via flickr.