Health
2:55 pm
Thu March 1, 2012

Suehs: Feds' Stand on Women's Health Sets Bad Precedent

The state's health commissioner is blasting the Obama administration's argument that it can't renew a joint state-federal health program because Republican lawmakers have banned Planned Parenthood from participating in it. 

In an uncharacteristically angry letter sent to Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus, Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Tom Suehs argues that if the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) won't let Texas exclude Planned Parenthood from the Women's Health Program, "then no state can ever confidently apply policies and requirements that advance important and legitimate state interests to regulate providers' participation in Medicaid." 

What that means, Suehs wrote, is that "the state must allow tax cheats, deadbeat parents, and even people suspected of serious abuse to participate in the Medicaid program. This is a risk I am unwilling to expose our clients to." 

The Women's Health Program, which provides contraception, well-woman exams and cancer screenings — but not abortions — for more than 130,000 low-income women ever year, receives $9 from the federal government for every $1 the state spends. Last legislative session, Republican lawmakers passed a measure that would force Planned Parenthood, which provides 40 percent of the Women's Health Program services, and other "affiliates" of clinics that do perform abortions out of the program.

The Obama administration has said excluding Planned Parenthood clinics from the program would violate the Social Security Act; Planned Parenthood has argued if the program ends for good in March, as it's expected to do, the blame falls at the feet of Republican lawmakers.

In his letter, Suehs vehemently disagrees. "If the program ends, it will end because the federal government preferred to promote its support of abortion providers and their affiliates rather than the health of Texas women," he wrote.