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The QueQue

The QueQue: SA sex trafficking exposed, Texas killing Women’s Health Program quietly

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The group and its supporters in the Lege now insist the new rules excluding providers violate federal Medicaid law, and since the program’s new language began to emerge earlier this year they’ve warned that Texas is poised for a head-on clash with CMS, which has already rejected similar measures in other states.

“The law is pretty clear about this, that the state is not allowed to just exclude providers,” said state Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, this week. “This is about one thing: a faction that is in control of the Legislature that has it in for one particular provider, Planned Parenthood. It’s really shortsighted given they provide health care for half the women in this program.”

And there’s a reason those like Villarreal call the WHP’s apparent end a “tragedy.” According to the Texas’ own numbers, the program helped the state avoid some 17,000 Medicaid-paid unplanned pregnancies through family planning programs, not abortions, within the first three years of operation, saving the state $120 million. For Texas, it’s a bargain deal: under the program, for every $10 in free services a woman gets, the feds pay $9 while the state chips in $1.

Without WHP funding, the Planned Parenthood Trust of South Texas would be left with a $1.3 million hole in its budget, said Vice President of Public Affairs Yvonne Gutierrez, forcing them to close one of their San Antonio family planning clinics along with a Kingsville clinic, neither of which provide abortions. Planned Parenthood will likely sue if the language excluding those who “affiliate” with abortion providers flies and the feds grant the waiver, she added. But many fear the current language will keep the program from moving forward at all. If that happens, Parenthood won’t even have a chance to fight in the courts. “We couldn’t sue because there’s effectively no program to sue over. … If Texas doesn’t come to the table and start to negotiate with CMS, we’re afraid they’ll just reject the program. Texas will have ended it,” Gutierrez said. That would leave over 100,000 low-income women without the preventative health care they’ve depended on for the past five years. •

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