Women's Health

Marjorie Kamys Cotera/Texas Tribune

The Texas Women’s Health Program that excludes clinics like Planned Parenthood that are affiliated with abortion providers will not launch on Thursday as the state planned.

Despite comments Wednesday morning from Texas Health and Human Services Commission executive director Kyle Janek indicating the program would be ready to start on Nov. 1, an agency spokeswoman confirmed that the state-led program would not begin until ongoing court controversy over the issue is clarified.

flickr.com/wenews

Update: 1:25 p.m.:

Planned Parenthood isn't giving up the legal fight over whether the state can ban its clinics from the Women's Health Program.

In a lawsuit filed today in state court, Planned Parenthood claims the “Affiliate Ban Rule” that bars its clinics from the program is "invalid" under state law.

Original Story: 6:43 a.m.:

Governor Rick Perry says the state is moving to immediately to cut off funds to Planned Parenthood.

The announcement came after a federal appeals court said Thursday it will not reconsider a decision that says Texas can withhold funds under the Women’s Health Program.

Good morning. Looks like Austin's entering a cool down! There may be some light showers today, but it looks like clear skies all weekend, according to the National Weather Service. Here are some stories KUT News has been working on:

Governor Rick Perry says the state is moving to immediately to cut off funds to Planned Parenthood. The announcement came after a federal appeals court said Thursday it will not reconsider a decision that says Texas can withhold funds under the Women’s Health Program.

As the Austin Independent School District gets ready to ask voters to approve hundreds of millions of dollars in borrowing next May, figures published by the Texas Comptroller show the district has one of the the lowest per-student debt rates among Austin-area school districts. That said, AISD also has the most debt of any district in the area, at $809,435,850. But, calculated on a per-student basis, AISD’s outstanding debt it is $9,492. AISD also has the lowest debt per capita.

A former Texas State University student, 19-year-old Brittany Henderson, has been arrested for making a bomb threat at the school last week. Several buildings were evacuated because of the threat. Henderson was arrested in Bryan on Tuesday and charged with making a terroristic threat, which is a third-degree felony, and making a false alarm, which is a class A misdemeanor.

Callie Richmond, Texas Tribune

In a peace offering of sorts to medical and women's groups on Thursday, Texas Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Kyle Janek announced rules for the new state-run Women's Health Program that permit doctors to discuss abortion with their patients and practice alongside physicians who provide abortions.

“What we wanted was to allow for the one-on-one, private, non-directive counseling between a physician and her patient,” Janek said.

But the new rules have done little to stem the frustration of family planning providers: They come as the state's Republican leaders prepare to run the Women's Health Program on their own — without the federal support the state has received for years, and without Planned Parenthood clinics.

“Once and for all, we implore Texas to put politics aside and put women’s health first," said Ken Lambrecht, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas. "The Women’s Health Program and Planned Parenthood have worked together to provide women with essential health services, including cancer screenings, birth control, and well-woman exams, for the past five years." 

flickr.com/scATX

It's back to work today for many after a long Labor Day weekend. Expect another day in the triple digits.

Public Invited to Comment on Texas Women’s Health Program

Today the public will get a chance to express their thoughts on proposed changes to the Texas Women’s Health Program – what used to be known as the Medicaid Women’s Health Program.

The program provides health services to about 130,000 low-income Texas women. It has been mostly paid for with federal funding. But when Texas lawmakers decided to enforce a state rule that the program could not support clinics affiliated with abortions, the Obama Administration vowed to cut off the funding. When Medicaid funding is cut off in November, Governor Rick Perry says Texas will pay for the program. The details of how the state will take on the funding have not yet been outlined.

Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood is suing in hopes of retaining funding. Planned Parenthood says their clinics provide important health services to women who would otherwise have a hard time getting them.

As state officials prepare to take full control of the once federally funded Texas Women’s Health Program on Nov. 1, they’re running into a series of unexpected challenges, from controversy around proposed rule changes to questions about how to cover the 130,000 enrolled clients within the confines of a tight state budget. 

The state has pledged to forgo $35 million in annual federal funding — a 9 to 1 match — in order to exclude Planned Parenthood clinics from the program, clinics that have used Women's Health Program dollars to provide contraception and cancer screenings, but not abortions. Two separate courts have blocked Texas from ejecting those clinics ahead of legal hearings scheduled for the fall.

Meanwhile, Gov. Rick Perry has directed the Health and Human Services Commission to find a way to fund the 6-year-old program exclusively with state dollars. 

Monik Marcus/flickr http://bit.ly/ODQleE

Starting today, millions of women are going to receive birth control coverage at no upfront cost, a change supporters say gives women greater access and control over their own health care.

Through a provision in the Affordable Care Act, “non-grandfathered” insurance plans must provide eight new, free prevention-related health services for policies renewed or issued on or after September 23, 2012.

The new services, provided with no cost-sharing, include: well-woman exams, screening for gestational diabetes, HPV DNA testing, domestic violence screenings and counseling, HIV screenings, breastfeeding supplies, contraception and family counseling services. 

Caleb Miller Bryant, Texas Tribune

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission is launching a new Medicaid initiative to help prevent premature births.

The program was launched this week and provides a 24-hour help line and other resources to help mothers carry their babies to term.

Medicaid pays for more than half of the births in Texas. HHSC spokeswoman Stephanie Goodman told The Texas Tribune that premature births are especially expensive.

“One of those babies is more than 18 times the cost of a regular newborn,” said Goodman. “If we can reduce that, we can save a lot of money.”

Photo by Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News; Photo by Lucia Duncan for KUT News; Photo by Marjorie Kamys Cotera, Texas Tribune

Initial Findings Announced for Lady Bird Lake

Tonight, a team of riverfront planners, landscape architects and green builders will share their vision for the future of Lady Bird Lake’s south shore.

The team has spent the last few days studying what they call “South Shore Central”—which is the area around Congress and First Street. The city says the area is lacking in infrastructure.

Austin won a grant for sustainable development that covers the consulting fees. The team toured the shoreline by land and by boat and listened to recommendations from Austinites.

You know all those lawsuits now pending around the country charging that the Obama administration's rule requiring most health insurance plans to offer no-cost contraception is a violation of religious freedom?

Well, a whole bunch of supporters of the rule are chiming in now to say that argument has no legal merit.

So much for compromise.

A total of 43 Catholic educational, charitable and other entities filed a dozen lawsuits in federal court around the nation Monday, charging that the Obama Administration's rule requiring coverage of birth control in most health insurance plans violates their religious freedom.

When you go to the hospital these days, chances are good that it will be affiliated with a religious organization. And while that may might just mean the chaplain will be of a specific denomination or some foods will be off limits, there may also be rules about the kind of care allowed.

Photo courtesy flickr.com/kellycree

A federal judge says the state of Texas cannot exclude Planned Parenthood from the Medicaid Women’s Health Program.

The program provides contraceptives and basic health screenings for more than 100,000 low income women in Texas. A state rule aimed at preventing Planned Parenthood from providing services under the program was put in place earlier this year.

A federal appeals judge today said there is evidence that the rule is unconstitutional – and upheld a lower court’s order that temporarily blocks the state from enforcing it.

Photo by Callie Richmond, Texas Tribune

A district judge in Austin has ordered Texas to temporarily stop its enforcement of a rule that would have removed 49 Planned Parenthood clinics from the state’s Medicaid Women’s Health Program starting May 1.

In a 25-page opinion, United States District Judge Lee Yeakel ruled that the Planned Parenthood organizations that filed the lawsuit proved there could be irreparable harm to their clinics that rely on Women’s Health Program funding to help uninsured Texans access cervical and breast cancer screenings, birth control and STD testing. Yeakel also expressed doubt that the state could find enough providers by Tuesday to replace the Planned Parenthood clinics with other health providers.

Photo by Marjorie Kamys Cotera, Texas Tribune

The boards of three regional Planned Parenthood branches — North TexasCentral Texas and the Capital Region — will vote today on a proposed merger designed to form a $29 million-per-year mega-organization with 26 clinics up and down the Interstate 35 corridor.

Texas is asking for federal assistance transitioning to its own women's health care program.
Photo courtesy flickr.com/dennissylvesterhurd

Today, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission delivered a proposal to the Obama administration outlining plans for transitioning the state's Women’s Health Program from a mostly federally funded program to one that runs on state money.

In it, the state has asked that the federal government pay for the program through October. Federal funds were initially supposed to be phased out by April 30.

Thanh Tan is a reporter with KUT’s political reporting partner The Texas Tribune. Expanding on a report the Tribune published today, Tan says the plan outlined today still doesn’t account for where Texas is going to get the money to fund the Women’s Health Program.

Photo by Callie Richmond, Texas Tribune

In the battle between state leaders and the Obama administration over Texas’ decision to oust health care providers affiliated with abortion clinics from a five-year-old contraception and cancer-screening program, both sides believe they are the victims.

The Obama administration says Texas is violating federal law by limiting where poor women can seek health care, and it announced last week that it was cutting off financing for the Texas Medicaid Women’s Health Program, which does not pay for abortions and received $9 in federal financing for every $1 the state contributed.

Photo by Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison broke ranks from her party on Thursday to urge Gov. Rick Perry — her opponent in the 2010 Texas governor's race — to re-negotiate with the Obama administration to keep federal funding for the Medicaid Women's Health Program.

Here's the first of more than 5,600 comments we saw this morning when we went to Texas Gov. Rick Perry's Facebook page and opened up a post on his wall thanking those who supported his bid for the Republican presidential nomination:

"Governor Perry, I am experiencing mid-cycle cramping. Is this a punishment from god for not getting pregnant this month?"

The U.S. spent $2.6 trillion on health care in 2010 — more than the entire economy of France or Britain. But the amount spent and how it's used varies from state to state.

And no two states are more different than Texas and Massachusetts. At 25 percent, Texas has the highest rate of uninsured people in the nation. Massachusetts, where a 2006 law made coverage mandatory, has the lowest rate — fewer than 2 percent of people are uninsured.

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