Rules for Texas' health program puts Planned Parenthood at risk

Posted Oct 18, 2012 by Yukio Strachan
A Texas health program that serves more than 100,000 low-income women will shut down if Planned Parenthood is allowed to continue participating, the state's health and human services chief said on Thursday.
The Long Way To Healthcare Reform
The Long Way To Healthcare Reform
Andrew Boggs
That means the state is assuming full responsibility for the care of 115,000 low-income women — doing without funds from the federal government, which had paid 90 percent of the $39-million-a-year program — so that it can exclude clinics that are affiliates of abortion providers," San Antonio Express-News reports.
Texas is creating its own program using state funds. It is set to begin November 1.
Austin'sYour News Now says the rules governing the new Texas Women's Health Program define exactly what qualifies as an "abortion affiliate." The commission requires that a clinic maintain "physical and financial separation" from any abortion provider. They also must have a separate governing board and cannot share any funds.
Planned Parenthood, which is still serving women through the program, says it does not provide abortions at clinics that participate in the program.
But the state objects to the family planning group's affiliation with clinics that do provide abortions.
No guarantee
The formation of the Texas Women's Health Program comes on the heels of the Republican-dominated state government's decision to cut 40-million dollars in federal funding to the Medicaid Women's Health Program and fund it on its own.
At the heart of the issue is a state law banning tax payer money to any organization associated with an abortion provider. Several other states have tried to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood.
Rochelle Tafolla, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, which serves Houston and surrounding areas, said ending the program would be devastating for patients.
"It's shocking that they would rather end a program for low-income, uninsured women than to allow Planned Parenthood to provide these services," she said in an interview, according to Reuters.
The current federal-state health program provides contraception and health screenings. The state-funded program will provide those services plus treatment of certain sexually transmitted diseases, Texas Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Dr. Kyle Janek said.
Asked if he could guarantee there would be provider for every woman who wants one through the program on Nov. 1, Janek said, “I think just the best answer I can give you is, I don't guarantee anything," San Antonio Express-News reports.
Janek noted that the rules had just been finalized and said part of his job is to build the most “robust” network possible. “We are very confident we are going to get the number of providers that it takes to take care of them,” he said.
But a study released this month by the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services raised questions about whether other facilities would be able to absorb the patients now served by Planned Parenthood.
"There is no evidence that they are prepared to sustain the very large caseload increases that would be required to fill the gaps left after Planned Parenthood affiliates are excluded," the study said.
Planned Parenthood has asked a federal appeals court to reconsider a lower court ruling that allows Texas to ban it from the program,Reuters reports.
"If they prevail in that case, and the courts say, ‘You have to include Planned Parenthood,' then, yes, (the program) goes away," Janek said.
That case is still pending. However, their funding is set to dry up on November 1.
It's the women who are being hurt
According to Austin's Your News Now, Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas CEO Kenneth Lambrecht released this statement in response to the new "Affiliate Ban Rules":
“Once and for all, we implore Texas to put politics aside and put women’s health first. 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.
There is no sound reason Texas should jeopardize this important program by cutting off access to the health care provider relied on by nearly half of the women receiving preventive health services in the program. It is shocking that state officials would rather end low-income women’s access to family planning and preventive health services altogether than allow Planned Parenthood to provide these vital health services to women who choose to come to Planned Parenthood for care.
Planned Parenthood is exploring every option available to protect the health of the more than 100,000 women who rely on the Women’s Health Program. Our top priority is ensuring women in Texas have access to high quality, affordable health care. We wish politicians in Austin shared this commitment to Texas women, their health, and their wellbeing.”
Gov. Rick Perry and others who back the ban on Planned Parenthood have said it's important to ensure government funds don't prop up organizations that provide abortions, which they oppose, San Antonio Express-News reports.
Dr. Michael E. Speer, president of the Texas Medical Association, voiced concern about the prospect of the program ending if Planned Parenthood wins its effort to be included, saying such action would likely spur court action as well, but that in the meantime, women would be left without care.
“As a physician, that upsets me greatly,” said Speer, a neonatologist at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston. “It's the women who are being hurt.”