December 15, 2011 — HHS this week rejected Texas' request for a waiver allowing the state to exclude certain providers from its Medicaid Women's Health Program because they offer abortion care or are affiliated with groups that do, the Texas Tribune reports (Ramshaw, Texas Tribune, 12/12). The program provides family planning and preventive care services to 130,000 low-income women and does not fund abortion care (Tan, Texas Tribune, 12/14).
Cindy Mann, director of the Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services at CMS, said, "We want to be very clear (that) Medicaid does not pay for abortions and will not pay for abortions," noting that the state's proposal would violate federal rules, including the Social Security Act, by excluding certain providers. "The issue here is not whether Medicaid funding is involved but whether the state can restrict access to a qualified health provider simply because they provide other services Medicaid doesn't pay for," she added.
Mann said HHS would extend the current Women's Health Program through March while state and federal officials decide how to proceed. "We're very much interested in continuing discussions with them on having a longstanding renewal of the family planning demonstration program," she said (Texas Tribune, 12/12).
Some family planning advocates worry that Gov. Rick Perry (R) and Texas lawmakers will opt to end the program rather than allow participation by the providers they oppose. However, Sandie Haverlah, a lobbyist for Planned Parenthood, said HHS' decision has the benefit of giving advocates some time to try to reach an agreement and forcing the state to re-evaluate.
State officials plan to consult with the state attorney general on how to proceed (Texas Tribune, 12/14).