The Texas Women’s Health Program (WHP) provides affordable health care to roughly 130,000 low-income women in the state, but Texas Republicans jeopardized the program when officials decided to block abortion providers — including Planned Parenthood — from participating. In March, the federal government cut off federal funds, which made up 90 percent of the Medicaid program, noting that states cannot ban certain providers from Medicaid.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) has promised to make up the $30 million gap and keep the WHP running with only state funds, so that Texas can still ban Planned Parenthood from the program. Originally, federal officials proposed phasing out funding by September, but Billy Milwee, the state’s Medicaid director, has requested an extension until November to allow the state more time to adjust to the funding change.
But even if the program continues, thousands of women will need to find new care providers when state officials begin blocking organizations that provide abortions from participating in May:
Milwee says they are enforcing the state law banning Planned Parenthood and others starting May first. He expects about 3 percent of all statewide Women’ Health Program providers will be removed from the program. And he says that could mean an adjustment for some patients.
Milwee: They may have to find a new provider. We’ll help them do that. But, the services will continue.
That means up to 50,000 women could be in search of new doctors. Milwee’s plan calls for state officials to contact all women in the health program to help them find a new provider, and state officials are currently recruiting new doctors and clinics. But it is still unclear how specifically Texas will pay for the program to ensure that those benefits continue uninterrupted.
Meanwhile, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has sued the federal government to have the Medicaid funds restored, and Texas Planned Parenthood affiliates are suing the state for banning abortion providers in the Women’s Health Program. Most Texans disagree with the state’s plan anyway — 59 percent of Texans want the state to continue including Planned Parenthood, according to a March poll. And even Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) has defended the organization, saying it provides critical preventive care for women.