So-Called ‘Healthy Texas Women’ Limits Access to Family Planning and Preventive Care Services
Washington – The National Health Law Program (NHeLP) in August 4 comments to the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) urged it to reject Texas’ “Healthy Texas Women” application because it limits low-income women’s access to family planning and preventive health care services, flouting Medicaid law.
NHeLP objects to Texas’ request to receive federal Medicaid funding to continue operating a family planning program that prohibits providers who perform or promote abortions or affiliate with providers who do so from providing services to enrollees. Texas has been operating this family planning program, which contains several other problematic features, with only state funding since 2013.
The provider exclusion policy conflicts with the federal Medicaid Act provision (known as “freedom of choice”) that allows enrollees to receive services from the qualified provider of their choice. As such, Texas is requesting a waiver of that provision under section 1115.
NHeLP Legal Director Jane Perkins said “Section 1115 only allows HHS to grant a waiver to enable a state to carry out an experimental project that is likely to promote the objectives of Medicaid. ‘Healthy Texas Women’ does not meet these requirements. Nothing about Texas’ request is experimental or increases access to services for the low-income individuals who Medicaid is designed to serve.”
NHeLP Senior Attorney Catherine McKee added “The provider exclusion has been extensively studied and found to directly harm low-income women in Texas. After the State implemented this policy in 2013, enrollment and access to family planning services dropped dramatically.” An analysis published by the Austin-based Center for Public Policy Priorities on August 3 found that the number of women who received services through the program fell nearly 40 percent between 2011 and 2016.
See NHeLP’s full comments on the Texas demonstration waiver here.