Find a new doctor or scrounge up the money to pay for care -- that’s the choice for thousands of low-income Texas women. Jackie Jones is one of them. And even though the courts have upheld a decision to exclude Planned Parenthood from the state's Women’s Health Program, she says she’s sticking with her doctor, no matter what.
Jones says that as both a mom and substitute teacher, life is pretty hectic.
“I have three biological children and 22 non-biological children!” she jokes.
Because she's a sub Fort Worth, she doesn’t get health insurance through the school district. And money is tight.
“I don’t have a lot of income after house notes and car notes and children and life itself, I don’t have a lot of money left over,” Jones says.
She's always relied on Planned Parenthood for exams and cancer screenings.
“In my family, we have cancer,” Jones says. “We have cervical and abdominal and things like that. And for me, I have three children; I have to make sure that I’m ok for them. I want to see them grow up”
But as a Women’s Health Program patient, Jones can no longer get her annual exam at Planned Parenthood for free.
Providers affiliated with abortion care can’t receive state funding. Jones didn’t know that until she tried to schedule an appointment last week.
“They didn’t send any type of information saying that they were no longer funding Planned Parenthood, anything like that, so you come down to the wire where you need it, you need to go to Planned Parenthood and you find out you can’t,” she says.
So Jones is one of about 49,000 women who have to choose between free care and Planned Parenthood.
Without insurance, Planned Parenthood is relatively inexpensive. It costs the clinic $150 to perform an annual exam, but patients only have to pay $100. Other doctors charge up to $200 and many don’t included lab work.
Jones says for her, it’s worth it to stay put even if that means tightening her belt.
“It’s close to home. It is convenient. It is comfortable. And that’s the place that I know,” she says. “We were laughing about it; you don’t go through the Yellow Book to find an OB. You know? You have one, and that’s who you stick with.”
Stephanie Goodman with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission says she understands that.
“Ultimately at the end of the day, a woman is going to have to make that decision. If she wants to continue her Women’s Health Program coverage, it’s there and we’ll help her find a new doctor so there is no cost to her,” Goodman says. “If she is comfortable with the doctor she has been seeing, she may want to pay out of pocket for it or Planned Parenthood may have another program where she could take part at a lower cost.”
The state says even without Planned Parenthood, there are more than 3,500 providers statewide and almost a third of those are new since May.
But Planned Parenthood says that’s not enough.
“An infrastructure to provide basic health care to low-income, uninsured women has been shredded by the Legislature for no good reason,” says Kelly Hart with Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas.
Hart says the group is trying to help women with a patient assistance fund, but there is no way clinics can fully subsidize all these women.
Jackie Jones says she’s grateful for the free care she used to receive, but she’s just not willing to leave Planned Parenthood.
“Just like you don’t want to be uprooted from your home, I don’t want to be uprooted from my doctor,” she says.
You can find out how to contact the Women’s Health Program by clicking here. The state has taken 4,600 calls in the last three weeks and the vast majority of those have been questions about finding a new doctor.