According to a new report released by the National Women’s Law Center, low-income Texas women without health insurance are less likely to get basic and consistent health and preventive care services than low-income women with health coverage, underscoring the need for Texas’ leadership to expand Medicaid coverage to uninsured women below the poverty line. Without it, women will continue to go without care, jeopardizing their overall health and well-being.
As the NWLC report highlights, over half a million uninsured Texas women below the poverty line–who make up a quarter of all uninsured women in Texas–fall into the Medicaid coverage gap and are left with no affordable health coverage option, while women living above the poverty line have the opportunity to shop for coverage in the Marketplace and get help paying for it.
As the report indicates, wide disparities exist between low-income women with and without health insurance, and these disparities will only continue to grow without expanded health coverage:
In Texas, low-income women are only eligible for Medicaid if they are pregnant, have children and an income below 19 percent of the poverty line, or have a disability. So, the poor women who fall into the coverage gap created by Texas’ refusal to expand Medicaid are left to rely on a patchwork of services for care, leaving their options few and far between.
In 2011, the Texas Legislature gutted the state family planning program by cutting its funding by two-thirds, sending shockwaves throughout the state–family planning clinics scaled back their hours or closed entirely, and providers had to start charging for services that were once free. At the same time, the state fought and won to keep Planned Parenthood from offering family planning and preventive care services through the Medicaid Women’s Health Program. While the state created its own Texas Women’s Health Program absent the single largest reproductive care provider, and the 2013 Texas Legislature restored most of the money lost in 2011 by directing it to primary care providers, it’s unclear if the new system will serve as many women as before the massive cuts and whether or not there are enough providers throughout the state to perform the services. Early claims reports indicate fewer women are accessing services under the state-run program, and Sen. Jane Nelson has called an interim Senate committee hearing to assess where we are.
As the NWLC report highlights, Medicaid Expansion is one the best ways states can ensure low-income women can get the health services they need–Pap smears, mammograms, cervical screenings, etc.–and lead healthier lives.