Before you head out for the long weekend, put this on your calendar for next week: Proposed changes to the Texas Medicaid Women’s Health Program get a public hearing in Austin next Tuesday afternoon. Here are the when and where details.
There are real questions about whether this successful program, which provides basic health and family planning services to low-income women, will be able to offer its services at the level it once did. But it’s not (only) because of funding concerns. It’s because some state lawmakers made an ideological decision to exclude all providers that are “affiliated with” a clinic that provides abortion services. The rules are clearly aimed at Planned Parenthood — which serves nearly half of all clients under the existing system — but they also exclude a number of other providers as well.
The Austin Chronicle has a write-up on the hearing:
To recap: last year state lawmakers prompted the rewriting of rules governing the Women’s Health Program in order to cut Planned Parenthood, the program’s single largest provider, from the loop. While the rules for the WHP had always contained a prohibition on allowing abortion providers to serve clients, until last year that provision had not been used as a wedge to force out PP.
The original intent of the WHP was to operate a federal-state Medicaid-waiver program – for every $1 the state paid in, the federal government kicked in $9 – that would provide family planning and basic health services to women who aren’t pregnant and who wouldn’t otherwise be eligible for Medicaid unless they were pregnant. The PP clinics providing services to WHP clients are family-planning clinics and do not provide abortion care.
Still, that separation apparently hasn’t satisfied the state, which rejiggered the WHP rules in such a way that has made it so that any clinic using the name Planned Parenthood is ineligible to participate. That didn’t fly with the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, because PP is a medically-qualified provider, so Texas decided to go it alone in paying for the nearly $40 million program – a figure that appears based on the cost of seeing the roughly 115,000 women served in 2011, and without anticipating any growth, which could be substantial if the close to 200,000 women who are currently enrolled in the program, but haven’t yet availed themselves of services, were to try to do so.
Classic example of politics trumping the best interests of a large group of Texans. Here’s some more coverage on the WHP:
If you care about this issue, it looks like this may be your best chance to express your concerns. There are no other public hearings currently scheduled. At the meeting, DSHS will provide a brief presentation of the proposed rules and the remainder of the time will be reserved for public comment. Commenters will be allowed three minutes each for oral comments. Written comments will also be accepted.