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