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Texas Democrats Raise Concern Over Availability of Women's Health Providers

Texas Democrats Raise Concern Over Availability of Women's Health Providers

January 22, 2013 — Texas House Democrats are questioning whether the state Health and Human Service Commission has a sufficient network of providers to serve low-income women enrolled in the state's Women's Health Program, the Texas Tribune reports. The commission on Jan. 15 removed a list of providers from its website after lawmakers and news outlets questioned its accuracy (Aaronson, Texas Tribune, 1/17).

Texas on Jan. 1 launched its own WHP after the federal government ended funding for a similar program because the state barred participation by organizations affiliated with abortion providers. The program provides low-income women with no-cost well-woman exams, certain family planning services and other basic health care (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/8).

According to the health commission, the state WHP has 3,500 providers available to serve participants, which is roughly 1,000 more than the number that participated in the former WHP. A recent survey by the commission found that only one area -- San Angelo -- lacks the enrollment to meet demand.

Concerns About Database

However, Democratic Reps. Donna Howard and Lon Burnam and several news outlets have questioned the validity of the state's information. Burnam's office contacted 104 providers listed on the website as participants in the Fort Worth area and found that only 11 accept Texas WHP patients, including three that only provide limited care.

House Democratic Caucus Chair Jessica Farrar filed a Texas Public Information Act request that the agency release a list of enrolled providers, the number of patients they anticipate serving, the number of patients served by the former WHP and the geographical areas where the state cannot meet demand.

According to commission spokesperson Linda Edwards Gockel, the database is being updated and will be online in about a week. "We are confident in the capacity information we've gathered from providers in the program and are using that to improve the list," Gockel wrote in an email to the Tribune (Texas Tribune, 1/17).