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Texas Asks for Time Transitioning to New Women's Health Program

Texas is asking for federal assistance transitioning to its own women's health care program.
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Texas is asking for federal assistance transitioning to its own women's health care program.

Today, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission delivered a proposal to the Obama administration outlining plans for transitioning the state's Women’s Health Program from a mostly federally funded program to one that runs on state money.

In it, the state has asked that the federal government pay for the program through October. Federal funds were initially supposed to be phased out by April 30.

Thanh Tan is a reporter with KUT’s political reporting partner The Texas Tribune. Expanding on a report the Tribune published today, Tan says the plan outlined today still doesn’t account for where Texas is going to get the money to fund the Women’s Health Program.

“What we do know is that Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to commissioner Tom Suehs last month,” Tan said. “And he responded by telling them that the state may be able to free up some state money by filing for federal block grants for other programs outside of the women’s health program.”

The program costs about $40 million to run annually and had been getting 90 percent of its funding from the federal government . The funding paid for family planning services for 130,000 low-income Texas women, including breast and cervical cancer screenings, STD testing and birth control, until a battle between the state and the feds over Texas’ exclusion of Planned Parenthood led to the program’s collapse.

“It looks like the state is trying to switch gears a little bit,” Tan said. “It looks like they are trying to find funding so that they can actually treat STDs for the women in the program, if and when they are diagnosed with an STD.”

As it will no longer receive Medicaid funding, officials say they plan to rename it from the Medicaid Women’s Health Program to the Texas Women’s Health Program. The new program will also be expanded to include paying for treatment of sexually transmitted diseases.

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