By KYLE JANEK, M.D.
Texas Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner
There’s certainly no shortage of news about the Women’s Health Program, but there’s been little said about one important topic: the state’s right to make sure Medicaid programs comply with state law and reflect the values of our citizens.
While we settle that matter in the courts, Gov. Perry has made sure that the 120,000 low-income Texas women who depend on the program won’t be caught in the crossfire. Under his direction, we’ve got a state program ready to go if Washington cuts off our funding. The transition will be seamless for the women in the program and the doctors who care for them.
In 2005, the Texas Legislature approved the innovative Women’s Health Program, which provides important family planning and preventive care for about 120,000 low-income women who wouldn’t qualify for Medicaid unless they were pregnant. Texas got federal approval to use Medicaid funding for the program and launched it in 2007.
Despite the Women’s Health Program’s value and success – the program more than pays for itself by reducing the number of Medicaid births – Washington has announced it will pull the plug on our funding because our state law excludes organizations that perform or promote abortions from the program. The Texas law reflects Texas values, and we’re going to defend our right to enforce that law.
The 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals recently cleared the way for enforcement of the state’s ban against affiliates of abortion providers and continuation of Medicaid funds in the Women’s Health Program. The next day, Planned Parenthood filed another lawsuit in a different court and got a temporary restraining order blocking enforcement of the law. A hearing on the temporary order is set for Nov. 8.
The Women’s Health Program receives federal funding, but it’s a Texas program. We created it. Our state workers process the enrollment applications from women seeking the coverage. We operate the system that pays the doctors and clinics that perform the services. Yet Washington is now saying our state can have no say over who gets that funding. It’s time to change that.
As the state’s Health and Human Services executive commissioner, I must comply with the laws passed by our Legislature, the elected representatives of the citizens of Texas. Medicaid consumes a quarter of our state budget, so making sure the program complies with state law is paramount. It’s important that Texas stands its ground and defends a state’s ability to establish reasonable criteria for Medicaid providers. To do less would undermine our ability to exclude anyone from Medicaid for any reason, including those who steal from the system, cheat on their taxes or harm their patients.
We’re going to continue to use Medicaid funding for the Women’s Health Program as we fight to keep it running in a manner that respects and upholds our state law. After all, those dollars originate from the pockets of Texans. If Washington cuts off that funding, Gov. Perry’s commitment to the program means Texas women won’t miss a single day of coverage. We’ve got more than 3,000 doctors and clinics that will continue to provide these services under the state-funded program, even after we’re able to exclude affiliates of abortion providers from the program.
In Texas, we fight for what’s right. We remain committed to the women who rely on these services and will ensure that they continue to get care. We’re also going to make sure taxpayers have a right to see that their hard-earned dollars go to programs that reflect their values, in this case the value of life. That’s the Texas way.