Texas Seeks Fund Extension for Women’s Program

Wednesday, 18 Apr 2012 11:10 AM

By Robert Engler

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Texas has asked the Department of Health and Human Services to extend funding for the Women’s Health Program through October to give the state time to find money to continue the Medicaid-based program without federal assistance.

Earlier this year, Gov. Rick Perry signed a law banning abortion providers, including Planned Parenthood, from receiving funds from the Women’s Health Program. The ban prompted federal officials to announce an end to the Medicaid-financed $33 million program subsidy, effective in June, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

Perry, who opposes the use of taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions, has promised that Texas will continue the program, which serves approximately 130,000 low-income women statewide.

However, the American-Statesman reported Tuesday that Texas Medicaid officials are seeking an extension of federal funding beyond the June deadline to at least Nov. 1 to give them more time to find new resources.

“We believe that this plan will meet our mutual goal to ensure that current and future clients of the program have access to needed family planning services without disruption,” state Medicaid director Billy Millwee said in a letter to the federal agency.

Texas officials plan to take over complete financing of the program on Nov. 1. In the meantime, the WHP will continue to accept new patients without any changes to eligibility rules.

The transition plan also calls on Texas health officials to identify new providers who accept Medicaid to replace Planned Parenthood and its affiliate clinics, who serve some 50,000 of the 130,000 women patients who participate in the Women’s Health Program.

Democrats and Planned Parenthood, which has sued Texas in federal court to overturn the ban on abortion providers in the program, have expressed skepticism that Perry and Republican lawmakers can find new providers to handle those patients.

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