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State Employee Steps Down After Controversial Women's Health Study

A high-ranking official at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission is resigning after he co-authored an unflattering study that found the state’s exclusion of Planned Parenthood from a family planning program restricted women’s access to health care.

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A high-ranking official at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission is stepping down after he co-authored a controversial study that found fewer women accessed a Texas family planning program after Planned Parenthood was kicked out in 2013.

Rick Allgeyer, the commission’s director of research, will step down after he faced criticism for authoring the study that was unflattering to the state's women's health program. By excluding Planned Parenthood from the family planning program, lawmakers may have restricted women’s access to long-acting birth control, according to the study's authors.

An agency spokesman confirmed Allgeyer's departure late Thursday.

The study, which was co-authored by Allgeyer and researchers from the health commission and the University of Texas at Austin’s Texas Policy Evaluation Project, found that the removal of Planned Parenthood led to a 35 percent reduction in claims for long-acting contraceptives, such as intrauterine devices, and also led to a 1.9 percent increase in childbirths paid by Medicaid, the federal-state insurer for the poor and disabled.

Allgeyer’s resignation follows complaints from state Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, that it was inappropriate for state employees to be involved in a study she said was biased and unsound. The health commission ordered its own review of the women’s health program after Nelson raised concerns about the study.

Nelson said the research was flawed because it was funded in part by the Susan T. Buffet Foundation, a donor to Planned Parenthood, and because it did not account for two new women's health programs launched by the state.

"This study samples a narrow population within the Texas Women's Health Program (TWHP) - which represented only 33 percent of the overall number of women enrolled in our women's health program in Fiscal Year (FY) 2014," Nelson wrote in a response to the study earlier this month. "This ignores the hundreds of thousands of women being served through the expanded Primary Health Care Program; and the 628,000 women of child-bearing age receiving full Medicaid benefits, 75 percent of which received contraceptive services in FY 14."

The study was published in the highly regarded New England Journal of Medicine on Feb. 3, and researchers from the Texas Policy Evaluation Project at the University of Texas have defended their findings as sound and apolitical.

But a spokesman for the state health commission said it violated the agency’s policy for an employee to “moonlight,” or work part-time outside of the agency, without explicit permission.

"Rick Allgeyer is eligible for retirement and has decided to retire from the Health and Human Services Commission," agency spokesman Bryan Black said in an email. "His retirement is effective March 31."  

Black said Allgeyer also "broke policy by working on the study during his workday. He should have never been putting in time on this study during the normal business day, he was paid to perform state business."

In 2013, the Women’s Health Program — which was 90 percent federally funded through Medicaid — was replaced by the wholly state-funded Texas Women’s Health Program. Both programs provided services to Texas women ages 18 to 44 who had incomes at or below 185 percent of the federal poverty level.

Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. Planned Parenthood was a corporate sponsor in 2011. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

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Health care Politics State government Health And Human Services Commission State agencies Texas Legislature