They say things are bigger in Texas, and apparently it’s true. The state may suffer a whopping $6 million loss if Planned Parenthood clinics are no longer part of the Women’s Health Program, and tens of thousands of women could be without care.
That’s the word from a George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services report that analyzed the fallout from a Republican-led plan to kick Planned Parenthood out of the state’s Women’s Health Program. The program, a family planning and health system that started in 2005, is run under a waiver from Medicaid and serves about 100,000-plus low-income women.
“In a broader perspective, it’s a little sad to me that not very long ago, there had been a political compromise about family planning a birth control services, with conservatives and liberals agreeing that it was a good thing to help women take control of their reproductive choices and also decrease the need for abortions,” Leighton Lu, director of the school’s Center for Health Policy Research told TakePart.
“Within the year that social contract has appeared to unravel, and there have been stronger attacks on family planning and birth control. I thought this was something everyone could agree on.”
The Women’s Health Program offers birth control and basic screenings for illnesses such as diabetes and cancer. It has always excluded institutions that offer abortions, and the Planned Parenthood clinics that were part of the program didn’t provide them, so they were allowed in.
But according to the Austin American-Statesman, in February of this year state officials made a new rule saying that healthcare providers that were even associated with organizations that provided or promoted abortions were to be excluded.
Medicare and Medicaid decided this wasn’t in line with existing laws that allowed women to choose their own healthcare providers, so they yanked the funding, which constituted 90 percent of the budget for the Women’s Health Program with them.
The state said it would continue backing the program with state money. However, two lawsuits ensued: Texas is suing the federal government, and a number of Planned Parenthood affiliates are suing the state of Texas.
The report, says Lu, sought to figure out what would happen budget-wise and patient-wise if Planned Parenthood stopped providing services to women. A previous report had found that Planned Parenthood serves about half of all Women’s Health Program patients, about 52,000 women. However, in some areas, Planned Parenthood clinics serve more than 80 percent of patients.
Lu and his co-authors wrote that if Planned Parenthood were out of the picture, the remaining clinics in the program would have to absorb “a massive increase in WHP patients in order to maintain the overall 2011 caseload level.” In some instances, they added, providers would need to expand 250 percent to accommodate the overflow.
There would be more repercussions: Tens of thousands of women might not have access to family planning services, possibly resulting in an increase of unplanned births by 2,000 to 3,000.
State officials behind the Planned Parenthood ban don’t seem worried about the financial side of things, although the report said the decision could end up costing Texas between $5.5 million and $6.6 million.
“The state has increased the Women’s Health Program doctors and clinics by 500 since this spring and continues to add even more to the program,” Dr. Kyle Janek, the Texas Health and Human Services executive commissioner told the Statesman. “We’re confident that we’ll be able to provide women with access to family planning services.”
The new policy could go into effect in weeks, or it could be delayed in the courts. Regardless, Lu says the situation will no doubt be watched closely by other states considering a similar move, or those that may be trying to prevent one from happening.
“If it works out well for Texas then other states will consider this as well,” Lu says. “If it works out badly, some other states still might go for it. … It’s still very chaotic how this is proceeding, and it’s a sad little counterpart to what’s happening at the national level. So many things are uncertain right now.”
What do you think will be the fallout from kicking Planned Parenthood out of the Women's Health Program in Texas? Let us know in the comments.
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Jeannine Stein, a California native, wrote about health for the Los Angeles Times. In her pursuit of a healthy lifestyle she has taken countless fitness classes, hiked in Nepal, and has gotten in a boxing ring. Email Jeannine | TakePart.com