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Trump Administration Agrees To Fund Texas Health Program That Excludes Planned Parenthood

Martin Do Nascimento

The Trump administration has agreed to give roughly $350 million over five years to Healthy Texas Women, a state family-planning program that excludes Planned Parenthood.

"The Lone Star State is once again in partnership with the federal government to provide meaningful family planning and health services while fostering a culture of life," Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement Wednesday. "This collaboration is a symbol of our commitment to championing the lives of Texas women. I am grateful to President Trump and his administration for approving this waiver, and for his commitment to protecting the unborn while providing much-needed health resources to Texas women."

State officials revamped the program in 2013 to exclude Planned Parenthood as a service provider. Since then, experts say, the state  has struggled to help low-income women.

“There is just overwhelming evidence that shows after removing Planned Parenthood from these programs, women in Texas lost access to some really critical health care services,” Stacey Pogue, a senior policy analyst with the Center for Public Policy Priorities in Austin, said.

Despite issues, state health officials asked the federal government in 2017 to help pay for the program through what’s known as an 1115 Medicaid waiver. The waiver allows states more flexibility in how they spend Medicaid funds.

Pogue and others questioned whether states should be allowed to exclude certain providers using federal dollars. In a letter sent Wednesday, administrators with the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services said yes.

The agency told health officials approval was granted in an effort to help the state provide access "to high-quality family planning services that produce positive health outcomes for individuals."

Health advocates in Texas say the decision will not improve health outcomes for women.

"This waiver is a sham process meant to condone the targeting of Planned Parenthood and other women’s health care providers without actually improving services for women,” Pogue said. “Instead of ideological attacks on women’s health providers, state and federal leaders should focus on ways to actually improve access to high quality health care for women.”

Pogue said the decision also raises legal questions because other states could follow Texas' lead.

“There is a much bigger question here: Can states follow the bad example Texas set and still get federal dollars? And that’s what was answered," she said. "The bigger problem is the roadmap and the precedent for other states.”

After the request was announced in 2017, officials from Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, the political arm of Planned Parenthood affiliates in Texas, said they would consider a lawsuit if the waiver was approved.  

On Wednesday, the group said the decision to fund the "ill-fated" program "upends longstanding federal policy."

“This collaboration between Gov. Abbott and the Trump Administration shows how shockingly little value state leaders place on health care for Texas women," Dyana Limon-Mercado, its executive director, said.