The exclusion of Planned Parenthood has left gaps in health care for women, especially low-income women. Republican leaders pressured Texas state health officials to begin enforcing a provision to keep out Planned Parenthood, as well as any clinic, with organizational ties to abortion providers from the Women’s Health Program in 2011. The program provides cancer screening, well-woman exams and contraception for low-income women.
Since eliminating Planned Parenthood clinics from the program, state leaders have made efforts to recruit physician groups to take up the gap in care.
The problem is physician groups don’t usually get additional government funding to help low-income women access services not covered by the program according to the Texas Tribune.
Emma Morena is the assistant manager at Valley Women’s Specialists, a group that participates in the program. She says the program covers Pap smears, for example, but if the patient is positive for the human papillomavirus and needs treatment, that care isn’t covered.
“If you’re going to provide a program or a service, provide the full service and not just half of it,” said Moreno, whose physician group still encourages women who may be eligible to apply for the state program.
Moreno’s clinic offers a variety of payment plans, or refers patients to other clinics for treatment if they can’t pay. At times, physicians will provide the treatment free of charge.
The physician "just loses out on it, but he’s not going to leave the patient untreated,” Moreno said.
“Physicians cannot afford to really embrace the Texas Women’s Health Program patient,” said Fran Hagerty, CEO of the Women’s Health and Family Planning Association of Texas, “because they end up getting stuck, again, with the responsibility for the full patient care where there’s no funding available to them for that.”
Hagerty went onto say the Women’s Health Program was originally designed to be a piece in a patchwork quilt of family planning funding. Planned Parenthood was the previously the biggest provider in the program.
“Someone needs to come to their senses and lift that ban,” Hagerty said, “but that’s political and until the political winds change that’s not going to happen.”
Stephanie Goodman, a spokeswoman for the Health and Human Services Commission, said the agency is looking into these concerns.
Further details about the struggle to provide women’s health care in Texas can be found in the article by Becca Aaronson for the Texas Tribune.