Requiem – or Resurrection – for the Texas Women’s Health Program?

by Karen Nicholson, President, LWV-Texas

The League is outraged that the Texas Women’s Health Program (WHP) has been put on the “hit list” of state services. Initially authorized by the Texas Legislature in 2005 with strong bipartisan support, WHP has provided preventive family planning and other healthcare services to women living at or below 185% of the federal poverty level and who are US citizens. The state has paid only 10% of the costs of these services, with the federal government paying 90%. WHP has served women who do not qualify for other government-funded family planning programs but who would qualify for Medicaid prenatal and delivery care if they were to become pregnant. According to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, WHP helped some 217,377 women receive such services as wellness exams, contraception, diabetes and cancer screening and treatment of gynecological infections in its first two years. Despite the proven need and cost-effectiveness of WHP, the Texas Attorney General has taken a position that will terminate this essential service. His recent interpretation of state law prohibits the Health and Human Services Commission from contracting with agencies such as Planned Parenthood. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will not provide federal money to Texas under these circumstances, which means that thousands of poor women are about to loose vital preventive health care. This will increase unwanted pregnancies, resulting in INCREASED state expense. The Texas Department of State Health Services has estimated that it costs less than $170 per year per woman for family planning services and more than $8500 per woman for Medicaid delivery, postpartum and infant care. This isn’t the only hidden cost of this foolish decision: illnesses that could have been prevented through early detection and treatment will end up requiring far more expensive hospital care — that is still paid for by working Texans. We are not stuck with this decision. The League, itself created by public outcry, calls on all Texans who agree that making available basic health care services is sensible to contact Governor Perry and Health Commissioner Tom Suehs and asking that they remove the “Planned Parenthood exclusion” from Texas’ application for renewal of the WHP.

Don’t stop there: Spread the word and urge your colleagues, friends and relatives – via email, Facebook, Twitter and any other means available to you – to make these same contacts and save WFP for Texas women!

Contact information: Governor Rick Perry, Office of the Governor, P.O. Box 12428, Austin, Texas 78711-2428; Opinion Hotline for Texas Callers (800) 252-9600; messages can be sent online at http://governor.state.tx.us/contact

Thomas Suehs, Executive Commissioner , Texas Health and Human Services Commission, Brown-Heatly Building, 4900 N. Lamar Blvd., Austin, TX 78751-2316; 512-424-6502

Some ideas on LWV and UT students

I think we could put our heads together and come up with an idea for a League activity at UT that would be consistent with LWV principles and generate student interest.

Some thoughts I have:

LWV Austin could moderate a candidates forum on campus for a race that resonates with students in particular. This could be for a public office or a political position within the UT student structure.

We could moderate a panel discussion or debate on a public policy issue. Speakers would be students.

Voter registration is much higher in Travis County than voter turnout, especially for city elections. What about an effort to improve voter turnout in historically poor-performing voting precincts?

Brigid and I are holding a planning session in March to come up with an action that makes use of all our strengths to create a positive impact on our government. We’ll be discussing this on our Facebook page. Be sure to “like” LWV Austin Area so you’ll know when we’re meeting.

Second anniversary, and I’m NOT celebrating

On January 21, the nation marks the second anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the case Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, which enabled corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence federal and state elections. As a result of this ruling, spending in 2010 increased over fourfold compared to the last mid-term elections in 2006.

As the 2012 election season ramps up, so will special interest financing of political advertising. With the proliferation of SuperPACS, electioneering can now be done with total anonymity, thus depriving voters of vital electoral information.

Voters must take action to help remedy this by asking every candidate they meet to state their positions on campaign finance reform. Opensecrets.org and Project Vote Smart both provide reliable financial information on elected officials as well as candidates.

Voters should also carefully question every anonymous political ad they see and consider the motivations behind an expensive ad campaign that attacks a candidate. Are these ads really trying to inform voters, or just inflame them?

– Stewart Snider