The QueQue: 2012 rains mean SAWS sewer main breaks, Rick Perry as defender of women's health care?, Fracking and the Clean Air Act
Published: March 21, 2012
With the war on women raging, Gov. Rick Perry has tried earnestly over the past two weeks to pin the pending demise of the state's widely successful Women's Health Program on the feds. Now set to phase out over the course of the next three months, the shuttering of the program cuts off thousands of low-income and uninsured Texas women from basic health care and family planning services.
A months-long standoff between the feds and the state ended last week as the federal Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services officially announced they'd end the Medicaid-waiver program, which currently draws $9 in federal funds for every $1 the state chips in.
Since December the feds have insisted Texas' new rule change barring Planned Parenthood's family planning clinics and other "affiliates" of abortion providers from the program violates longstanding federal law allowing Medicaid patients to choose the health care provider of their choice. "Medicaid law is very clear; a state may not restrict patients' choice of providers of services like mammograms and other cancer screenings if those providers are qualified to deliver care covered by Medicaid," said CMS spokesman Alper Ozinal in an email last week. "Patients, not state government officials, should be able to choose the doctors and other health care providers that are best for them and their families. In 2005, Texas requested this same authority to restrict patients' choices, and the Bush Administration did not grant it to them either."
The WHP, which provides contraception and general reproductive health care services like cervical and breast cancer screenings, covered about 180,000 uninsured Texas women in 2010, according to state numbers. And by last count, Planned Parenthood served nearly half of all WHP clients.
Perry has called the spat a prime example of federal overreach. With the criticism piling up, the governor announced this month he'd scrounge up enough state cash to keep the program alive once the federal money — roughly $30 million each annually — drops out. He has yet to say where that money will come from. CMS this week said it will start a gradual phase-out of the program over the next three months. Perry responded with a flurry of press statements, calling CMS' decision "the height of political posturing," and charging the administration of putting "the interests of abortion providers and their affiliates, like Planned Parenthood, over the well-being of more than 100,000 low-income Texas women."
This is the same Perry that signed off on the Lege's gutting of Texas family planning budget last year.
Perry says he'll "continue to fight this egregious overreach and defend life, our state's laws and the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution." He and others firmly in the GOP camp have cried states' rights, saying Texas has every right to kick Planned Parenthood out of the program. And what would be a Texas-fed fight without a lawsuit? The state filed Friday, saying the administration's actions are unconstitutional and seeks to "commandeer and coerce the states' lawmaking process into awarding taxpayer subsidies to elective abortion providers." Also in the lawsuit? AG Greg Abbott asked the feds to please continue funding for the program.