Texas Sues Federal Government Over Medicaid Women's Health Program

March 19, 2012 — Texas' attorney general on Friday filed a lawsuit against HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and her agency over its decision to halt funding for the state's Medicaid Women's Health Program, Modern Healthcare reports (Barr, Modern Healthcare, 3/18).

The lawsuit was filed one day after CMS Director Cindy Mann officially informed state officials that HHS would end the financing because a Texas law violates federal rules prohibiting states from excluding qualified providers. The federal government, which covers 90% of the program's cost, previously told Texas officials it would suspend the funding as of March 14 if they began enforcing the law, which bars participation by Planned Parenthood and other "affiliates of abortion providers." The program provides family planning and basic health screenings for 130,000 low-income women (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/16).

State Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) in the lawsuit argues that HHS' decision will interfere with the state's ability to promote women's health (AP/New York Times, 3/17). The suit also contends that the decision violates the Constitution "by seeking to commandeer and coerce the states' lawmaking processes into awarding taxpayer subsidies to elective abortion providers" (Forsyth, Reuters, 3/16).

HHS said in a statement that it "has been committed to the success of the Texas Women's Health Program ... since its inception as a Medicaid demonstration project in 2006, and [it] had hoped to continue to support [the program] through a renewal of that project." The agency noted, "In 2005, Texas requested this same authority to restrict patients' choices, and the [George W. Bush administration] did not grant it to them either."

Gov. Rick Perry (R) said in a statement that he supports the lawsuit. He added that "Texas will fund these services with or without the federal government" (Houston Business Journal, 3/16).

State Lawmakers Often Reject Science, Columnist Collins Writes "When faced with a choice between scientific evidence and their personal and political preferences, [state] legislators are not going to go with the statistics," New York Times columnist Gail Collins writes in response to states' efforts to restrict women's reproductive health care. "Lawmakers venture into murky waters when they attempt to deal with the mysteries of human reproduction," she adds. For instance, she notes that "it's getting very popular to try to legislate an abortion-breast cancer link," despite studies that show "no evidence of a link whatsoever" (Collins, New York Times, 3/16).