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Health Reform Bill Alters Family Planning Funding

Photo by Nathan Bernier/KUT News

The health reform bill House lawmakers will consider today has drawn an unexpected band of supporters: abortion opponents. The measure — designed to improve health care delivery and cut waste in a system where costs are spiraling — contains a single provision aimed at doing what GOP lawmakers have fought to do all year: restrict funding to Planned Parenthood.

The measure requires the family planning programs run by the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) — which treat some 220,000 women a year — to prioritize funding to state or locally-run public health clinics, then private full-service clinics, over clinics that only provide family planning and women’s health care (namely Planned Parenthood).

This means Planned Parenthood, which receives about 25 percent of DSHS's family planning dollars today, stands to lose millions of dollars a year, on top of the budget cuts lawmakers passed this spring that slashed more than $60 million, or roughly 60 percent, from the state’s biennial family planning budget.

By law, no state or federal dollars fund abortion services. But today’s health reform bill also reasserts language that’s been on the books — but hasn’t been enforced — for years, excluding clinics “affiliated” with those that provide abortions from participating in the Medicaid Women’s Health Program. That program is run by the Health and Human Services Commission, and extends care to women who don’t qualify for Medicaid, but whose unborn babies would. A rulemaking meeting defining the term “affiliate” to exclude Planned Parenthood is scheduled for tomorrow at the Health and Human Services Commission.

Earlier today, The Texas Tribune reported that the federal government could try to keep Texas from excluding Planned Parenthood from the Women's Health Program. Last week, federal officials sent a memo to all 50 states warning them that Medicaid programs can’t exclude health care providers who offer them.  

Sen. Bob Deuell, R-Greenville, said he fears the Medicaid Women’s Health Program would fall under that purview. But he has asked the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services for clarification on whether the measure under consideration today, which would give priority for DSHS's family planning dollars to non-Planned Parenthood clinics, violates any federal rules. 

Emily Ramshaw investigates state agencies and covers social services for KUT's political reporting partner, the Texas Tribune. Previously, she spent six years reporting for The Dallas Morning News, first in Dallas, then in Austin. In April 2009 she was named Star Reporter of the Year by the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors and the Headliners Foundation of Texas. Originally from the Washington, D.C. area, she received a bachelor's degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.
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