August 1, 2013 — The number of medical and family planning services claims filed for Texas' Women's Health Program has declined since state lawmakers prohibited Planned Parenthood clinics from participating in the program, according to figures from the state's Health and Human Services Commission, Kaiser Health News/Texas Tribune reports.
According to commission spokesperson Stephanie Goodman, the program is "running at about 77% of the number of claims this year compared to last year," and the agency expects to "see a similar trend with the number of women served," although those numbers are harder to calculate.
Texas in 2011 began enforcing a state rule that barred Planned Parenthood from participating in the Medicaid Women's Health Program, which the federal government had financed with $9 for every $1 the state contributed. In response to the state's move, the federal government cut off the funding -- costing Texas more than $30 million annually. The state then launched its own program that excluded Planned Parenthood.
Goodman said the agency anticipated that the number of claims would decline when the state took over the program because officials "knew some women wouldn't want to change doctors." However, the agency has been able to locate new doctors for women participating in the program who call the commission, and has "the capacity to increase the number of women we're serving," she said.
Danielle Wells, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, said that cutting Planned Parenthood from the program forced many women to travel farther to find providers and make "tough decisions about paying out of pocket for care or simply putting off vital care that could potentially save lives."
Amanda Stevenson, a research associate at the University of Texas at Austin's Texas Policy Evaluation Project, said that determining how the law has affected women's access to care is complex. While the state health commission is enrolling new providers to replace Planned Parenthood, women might delay care because they do not know which providers are available, or they might choose to pay for services on their own so they can continue receiving care through Planned Parenthood. Stevenson added that while researchers are "seeing obviously that access is diminishing in places, particularly [those] that rely heavily on Planned Parenthood providers," other parts of the state have not been significantly affected by the law (Aaronson, Kaiser Health News/Texas Tribune, 7/30).