February 24, 2012 — The Texas Department of Health and Human Services on Thursday announced it will implement a state law that bars Planned Parenthood clinics and other "affiliates of abortion providers" from participating in the state's Medicaid Women's Health Program, the Texas Tribune reports (Ramshaw, Texas Tribune, 2/23).
In December, federal HHS officials denied Texas' request for a waiver that would have allowed it to implement the law, which the agency said violated federal rules prohibiting state Medicaid programs from excluding certain providers. The Women's Health Program provides family planning and preventive care services to 130,000 low-income women and does not fund abortion care (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/15).
Enforcing the law will put Texas at risk of losing federal money for the Women's Health Program, which receives $9 in federal funds for every $1 in state funds. When federal officials denied the waiver request, they said they would allow a three-month extension of the program but would not renew the funding if the state moved forward with the plan to bar certain providers.
A rule signed Thursday by Texas HHS Commissioner Tom Suehs at the direction of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) would implement the law starting March 14. Funding to providers would be phased out of or cut off by the end of March, according to the Tribune. At least 130,000 low-income women will be impacted (Texas Tribune, 2/23).
"We have a state law that our attorney general says is constitutional, and it clearly bans abortion providers from taking part in the Women's Health Program," Texas HHS spokesperson Stephanie Goodman said. She added, "We can't violate a perfectly valid state law just to appease Washington" (Pecquet, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 2/23).
Planned Parenthood said in a statement, "The Medicaid Women's Health Program saves lives, prevents unintended pregnancies and saves taxpayer dollars." It continued, "For many women, [the program] is their only source of health care" (Tomlinson, AP/Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, 2/24).