Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) convened a press conference today to announce the creation of a fully state-funded Women’s Health Program for Medicaid recipients, but his political theater only served to obscure the truth about women’s health services in Texas.
Earlier this year, Texas announced its intention to fund the Medicaid providers in its Women’s Health Program solely through the state as a method of defunding local Planned Parenthood affiliates. Since states are not allowed to withhold federal Medicaid funds from qualified providers like Planned Parenthood, Texas legislators needed to find a workaround to continue to exclude the national health organization — which they chose to target as an “abortion affiliate,” even though abortion services represent just three percent of its total medical care — from the Women Health’s Program.
But even though Perry claimed his state is “ready” to begin fully funding the Women’s Health Program today — and even rolled out a new logo for the program — the Associated Press confirmed that they will not actually do so until Medicaid providers stop receiving federal funding. Since federal funding is guaranteed through the end of this year, Texas’ Planned Parenthood affiliates will continue to receive their full Medicaid funds until December 31. In a press release, Planned Parenthood officials celebrated the fact that their organization will be able to keep its doors open to the thousands of low-income women it serves:
Despite confusing statements from state officials, today’s announcement means that Planned Parenthood can continue to be a part of the Women’s Health Program as long as the “Affiliate Ban Rule” remains blocked by court order. Planned Parenthood and WHP patients expressed relief upon the announcement that tens of thousands of Texas women will not yet experience a disruption in WHP services, including breast and cervical cancer screenings, birth control, and testing for sexually transmitted infections.
“Today’s announcement is an important victory for every woman who relies on the Women’s Health Program for basic, preventive health care,” said Ken S. Lambrecht, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas. “Our doors remain open today and always to every Texas woman in need of affordable, high quality health care.”
Planned Parenthood filed a state lawsuit last week that blocks Texas from shutting down the Women’s Health Program altogether and preserves the organization’s federal funding for now. But thanks to the complicated legal battle that the national health organization is currently embroiled in, the future of the funding for its Texas affiliates remains unclear. Planned Parenthood officials say that Texas state law clearly stipulates that the Women’s Health Program needs to be funded federally — not on a state level, as Perry and his HHS Department are pushing for — so Texas lawmakers’ politically-motivated attacks on women’s health clinics will fall flat in court. Planned Parenthood’s next court date is set for November 8.
Ultimately, Perry is only serving to confuse the low-income women in Texas about the health care providers they can access through their Medicaid plans. Planned Parenthood is currently Texas’ largest Medicaid provider, serving tens of thousands of women across the state who often have no other means to access health insurance, and women deserve to know they can continue receiving critical health services at Planned Parenthood clinics in 2012.