New Women’s Health Program Not Launched Yet
This morning was supposed to be the first day of the Texas Women’s Health program – a new system to provide health screenings and other services to uninsured women, while excluding Planned Parenthood from its list of approved health service providers. But when the clock struck midnight, nothing changed.
The Women’s Health Program does not pay for abortions. But the largest clinic that provides health screenings to uninsured women through the program is Planned Parenthood. And they provide abortions separately. That’s why anti-abortion politicians – from Governor Rick Perry to Republican House Representative Paul Workman – wanted something to change.
“Texas will not allow a program that includes abortion providers or their affiliates like Planned Parenthood to be a provider,” Perry said at a press conference Wednesday.
Workman agreed: “This is why both Houses of the state legislature, by a vast majority, voted to defund Planned Parenthood. And although we are committed absolutely to women’s health, we will not have taxpayer money supporting organizations who make their living on the destruction of human life.”
That vote to defund Planned Parenthood is the so-called “Affiliate Ban Rule.” The state legislature passed it last year. And it says if you’re affiliated with an abortion provider, you’re banned from receiving money to provide other health services through the Medicaid Women’s Health Program.
Problem is, the program is 90 percent funded by the federal Medicaid dollars, and the federal government doesn’t allow states to pick and choose qualified Medicaid providers. So the state came up with its own program, using its own money, that was supposed to launch today – the Texas Women’s Health Program.
“Let me be clear. The first goal, the most important goal is to make sure the women who need the services get the services,” said Dr. Kyle Janek, the state’s top health official. “Our second goal of course is to do it in a way that complies with state law. The legislature has been very clear on this in terms of how the funding is to go. We have devised a program that will comply with that.”
Janek says the new Texas program is ready to go with 3,000 providers signed up. But right now that plan is on hold. That’s partly because of a temporary restraining order issued by a state district court that prevents Texas from excluding Planned Parenthood from the Women’s Health Program at least until a hearing is held on November 8.
Planned Parenthood plans to argue at that hearing that the state law bans measures that would result in the Women’s Health Program losing Medicaid funding.
Planned Parenthood’s Capital Region CEO Sarah Wheat says Texas wouldn’t be able to care for uninsured women without the organization’s network of clinics.
“We’re the single biggest provider of these vital health screens and exams that are offered for uninsured women. Without Planned Parenthood, there is no women’s health program,” Wheat says.
In the meantime – federal Medicaid dollars are still flowing to the Women’s Health Program, and through that to Planned Parenthood, at least until the end of the year, or until the courts sort out whether Planned Parenthood can be included in the Women’s Health Program.