The Obama administration notified Texas yesterday that it was officially stopping funds to the Texas Women’s Health Program because of the state’s decision to block abortion providers, including Planned Parenthood, from participating in the program. About half of the participating clinics were cut off by the new state rule that went into effect this week, affecting 130,000 women in the health program:
Twenty-nine states participate in the Medicaid’s Women Health Program, which extends Medicaid coverage for reproductive health services to lower-income women who do not qualify for the rest of the entitlement program’s benefits. [...]
“We very much regret the state’s decision to implement this rule, which will prevent women enrolled in the program from receiving services from the trusted health care providers they have chosen and relied on for their care,” Medicaid director Cindy Mann wrote in a Thursday letter to Texas officials.
While nine states have passed legislation to end abortion provider’s government funding, Texas is the first to lose federal dollars over it. Other states’ laws have only affected state spending, or have been held up by court challenges.
Federal law prevents states from banning specific providers from Medicaid programs, leading to the Women’s Health Program showdown. Mann said that while they try to give as much flexibility as possible, “on this case, federal law precludes us from doing so.”
Last year, the federal government gave $39 million for the program. The state pays $1 for every $9 Medicaid puts into the program, but Gov. Rick Perry (R) has insisted the state will fill the gap to keep the program going without including Planned Parenthood. Texas Democrats are seeking alternate federal funds to continue the program through a different route.
A poll earlier this month showed that a majority of Texans disagreed with the Republican push to cut off Women’s Health Program funds to clinics simply because they also provide abortions. Fifty-nine percent of voters opposed the new rule, while 38 percent agreed with it.
Perry reacted angrily to the news that federal officials were cutting off funds. He tweeted, “Obama Admin ends #WHP via media conference call; @GovernorPerry pledges state will keep pgm going” and “This is how Obama Admin works? Notifying press before the state administrators? Purely political. #WHP.”