Democratic legislators are questioning whether the Texas Women’s Health Program has an adequate network of health care providers — as the Texas Health and Human Service Commission says it does — in light of the agency’s decision to pull the list of providers from a state website.
“It is unacceptable that thousands of Texas women may be cut off from access to the program due to the program’s inability to meet demand,” Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, the House Democratic Caucus chairwoman, said in a prepared statement. “My main concern is to ensure that women may be given the opportunity to affordable and accessible health care.”
Using the Texas Public Information Act, Farrar requested that the agency release a list of the available providers enrolled in the Texas Women’s Health Program along with the number of patients they anticipate serving, the number of patients served by the former Medicaid Women’s Health Program and the geographical areas in the state where provider enrollment does not meet demand.
The Texas Women’s Health Program launched Jan. 1 to replace the Medicaid WHP, a joint federal-state program that lost its $9-to-$1 federal match in funding when the state implemented a rule to ban providers affiliated with abortion clinics — namely 51 Planned Parenthood clinics.
Studies conducted before the state implemented the so-called Affiliate Ban Rule found tens of thousands of women may have trouble accessing health services if Planned Parenthood clinics were excluded from the Medicaid Women’s Health Program, as Planned Parenthood performed more than 40 percent of the services for women enrolled in the former Medicaid WHP. Planned Parenthood has used those studies to argue in court — sometimes successfully, and other times not — that women would lose access to health care if Planned Parenthood were excluded from the program.
According to the HHSC, the Texas WHP has 3,500 participating providers, which is 1,000 more than the number that participated in the Medicaid WHP. A survey of those providers conducted by the state found that only one area, San Angelo, would not have adequate capacity to serve women in the Texas WHP without Planned Parenthood.
But Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, and multiple news outlets have questioned the accuracy of the state’s information, particularly the list of Texas WHP providers that was posted on a state website to help women in the program find alternative providers to Planned Parenthood.
Burnam’s office called 104 providers listed as participating in the Texas WHP in the Fort Worth area and found only 11 that accept Texas WHP patients, three of which only provide limited services.
The HHSC removed the list of Texas WHP providers from the state’s website on Tuesday. Linda Edwards Gockel, a spokeswoman for the agency, told The Dallas Morning News on Wednesday that an updated list will be put up in about a week.
"We are confident in the capacity information we've gathered from providers in the program and are using that to improve the list," Gockel said in an email to the Tribune.