Heidi Group Heave-Hoed
State finally kicks incompetent anti-choice health provider to the curb
"It's about damn time," said Kathy Miller of the Texas Freedom Network, echoing the general consensus among pro-choice groups after the Texas Health and Human Services Commission finally decided to break its multimillion-dollar women's health contracts with an anti-choice organization that had zero medical expertise. The contracts, say reproductive health groups, should have never been granted in the first place.
The Round Rock-based Heidi Group – meant to replace Planned Parenthood in the state's women's health program in a purely ideological move by state officials – had been awarded a total of $16.7 million for 2017-19 to serve low-income women in the Healthy Texas Women and state family planning programs. In 2017, the group, which had no prior health care experience and is headed by a vocal anti-abortion activist, deeply failed to meet its client goals, seeing only about 2,000 instead of a projected 50,000 clients. The HHSC announced it would considerably scale back its funding ("State Axes Anti-Choice Group's Family Planning Funds," Aug. 23, 2017), but the health commission then quietly re-upped its contract for 2019, despite the group's glaring incompetence and negligence.
HHSC's Carrie Williams says that after several reviews, the commission "determined that the Heidi Group is unable to meet the standards of a successful contractor with us" due to "substantial deficiencies in the areas of contract compliance, service administration, and financial and administrative management of both contracts." Not only will Heidi Group be losing its funding by Dec. 11, but it will be forced to pay up for its failures. Williams says agency officials found roughly $29,000 in repayments and a questionable $1.1 million in billed costs that may also need to be reimbursed; the HHSC inspector general is currently investigating.
Reproductive health groups are calling the contract termination a victory, but still criticize HHSC for granting taxpayer dollars to a vendor like Heidi Group in the first place. "The Heidi Group was never remotely qualified to provide reproductive health care to tens of thousands of Texans in need," says Aimee Arrambide, executive director at NARAL Pro-Choice Texas. "Family planning dollars should go directly to medical providers who have experience providing family planning and preventive care services, not anti-abortion organizations that aim to coerce and manipulate."