Report: Thousands Fewer Women Served by Texas Women's Health Program
After excluding Planned Parenthood, fewer women in health program
By Mary Tuma,
3:45PM, Wed. Mar. 25, 2015
A new report confirms what reproductive health advocates predicted when Texas officials decided to kick Planned Parenthood out of a life-saving, preventative Medicaid program: Far less women are being served.
While more than 200,000 women were enrolled in the original Women’s Health Program in 2011, that figure dropped 9% after Planned Parenthood – the dominant provider, serving about 40% of the 130,000 clients – was forced out of the program for ideological, anti-choice reasons. Even fewer women utilized the program, according to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission report. In 2011 more than 115,000 women filed a WHP Medicaid claim; in 2013 that number fell to 85,619 women, a 25.7% reduction. The Central (-40%) and West Texas (-64%) regions were significantly affected. The report notes that the reduction in the number of women served is, "due, in part, to the change in the provider base" that occurred with the 2012 exclusion of abortion providers and affiliates.
Women are also seeing less access to contraceptives – all claims for birth control (LARC, injection, pills, and condoms) dropped from 2011 to 2013. The Women’s Health Program, created in 2005 (and implemented in 2007), was designed, in part, with the specific intention to reduce unplanned pregnancy and curb Medicaid births – and save taxpayer money, as more than half of Texas births are covered by Medicaid – by widening access to contraception for low-income women. The program also offers well-woman exams, STD tests, and cancer screenings for uninsured women age 18-44.
In 2012, conservative state officials sought to punish abortion provider Planned Parenthood (despite the fact the provider keeps its abortion services wholly separate from other services) by excluding them from the joint federal-state program. As a result, Texas fell in violation of federal law, and lost its 9-1 federal matching funds. Some 50,000 low-income women were left scrambling to find a new provider. While PP fought against the rule in court, the Texas GOP ultimately succeeded in banishing the provider. In 2013, early signs showed a substantial dip in women served.
“All the concerns we had are evident in this report,” Sarah Wheat, vice president of community affairs for Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, told the Chronicle. “This was a successful federal-state partnership that provided preventative health care so women could stay healthy and plan and space their pregnancies. And it was completely dismantled to achieve purely political goals.”
The Lege is renewing its efforts to punish the abortion provider this session by threatening to tier breast and cervical cancer funding in a way that leaves Planned Parenthood last in line – the consequences of which are predicted to be dire.
"This new data is a roadmap of what it’s going to look like if lawmakers persist in their latest political scheme for the breast and cervical cancer screening program," said Wheat. "We can see what happens when lawmakers place politics first – thousands of women go without basic health care."