Kamia Rathore, Health & Wellness Intern, wrote this post.
Too many Texas women need affordable family planning services, but state leaders have made ill-advised and politically motivated decisions that limit access to critical services.
Overwhelming evidence from academic research and the state’s own data shows that after Texas excluded its largest provider, Planned Parenthood, from the Texas Women’s Health Program, provider capacity dropped and women lost access to critical health care services.
In a new report, CPPP looks at the recent history of the state’s women’s health program. The report comes as the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) just formally submitted a Medicaid waiver request to receive federal funding for the program—the same funding the state previously forfeited when it excluded Planned Parenthood. Longstanding interpretation of the provider choice provision of federal law has previously prevented states from restricting Medicaid beneficiaries’ free choice in family planning providers. If approved, Texas’ family planning waiver would set a precedent that makes it easier for other states to exclude Planned Parenthood for politically motivated reasons without losing federal funding.
The report finds that:
- Provider capacity to deliver health care in the Texas Women’s Health Program declined after Planned Parenthood was excluded, despite substantial efforts from the state that greatly increased the number of participating providers.
- After Planned Parenthood was excluded, fewer women accessed health care through the program generally and contraception specifically. In 2011, 90 percent of all women enrolled in the program accessed health care services; by 2016, only 74 percent of women enrolled received services. The decline in women accessing contraceptive services is even sharper, raising troubling questions about the ability of the program to achieve its primary intention of helping women avoid unintended pregnancies.
The state’s request for a family planning waiver to federally fund the Healthy Texas Women Program presents an opportunity to review the women’s health program and ensure that it is equipped to best serve Texas women and advance the goals of the Medicaid program. After four-and-a-half years of excluding the largest women’s health provider, it is clear that Texas is less capable of serving the increasing needs and demands for women’s health services.
It should be clear to the federal government and other states that excluding family planning providers that are central to the functioning of the safety net, like Planned Parenthood, damages provider capacity and access to women’s health services. Texas’ exclusion of Planned Parenthood runs directly counter to the goal of expanding access to family planning services and continues to cause unnecessary harm to women, their families, and all Texans.