Texas put its new, state-funded Women’s Health Program on hold today, just hours before the retooled program was set to launch. And that means Planned Parenthood will continue getting state money to provide health care to women -- at least for the moment.
The $40 million program serves 130,000 low-income women, about half of whom now go to Planned Parenthood clinics.
Gov. Rick Perry led the charge for the "affiliate ban rule" to oust Planned Parenthood from the program because it makes referrals to clinics that perform abortions. But the federal government, which pays 90 percent of the program's expenses, says the Texas rule violates federal Medicaid rules against limiting a patient's choice of providers.
Stephanie Goodman, communications director of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, says that ultimately, Texas believes it will continue to receive federal Medicaid money and enforce the Legislature’s ban on clinics with ties to abortion providers.
“We didn’t want to abandon the Medicaid program when it appears we are so close to being able to continue that Medicaid funding and enforce our state law,” said Goodman. “So, we’re going to hold off on launching that state program.”
Goodman says state officials are encouraged by an appeals court decision last week. The court refused to reconsider an earlier ruling that gave the state the go-ahead to enforce the affiliate ban rule.
Planned Parenthood of Texas CEO Ken Lambrecht says there’s no way the state will keep federal funding and oust Planned Parenthood from the program.
“The federal government has been very clear, sending a letter to health services letting them know that the affiliate ban rule will not be allowed,” said Lambrecht.
Goodman says the state plans to fund its program for low-income patients through cost savings, including cuts to overtime. And she says they have enough doctors and clinics signed up to handle the influx of new low-income patients: women who currently go to Planned Parenthood clinics.
Lambrecht says there’s no way nearly 50,000 patients can get appointments with a new doctor in a reasonable time frame.
The battle heads back to court next week.