In 2011, Texas booted Planned Parenthood from the state's Women's Health Program, starving the family-planning provider from federal Medicaid funds. Almost half of Planned Parenthood's Texas clinics closed, depriving many in the state of critical medical care.
Two years later, the federal government cut off funding to the program, because of Texas' decision to exclude Planned Parenthood and other organizations that provide abortion care.
"It just decimated providers throughout Texas," Kelly Hart, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, told the Observer last year. "Eighty facilities closed, most of them not Planned Parenthood facilities. I don't know that we've recovered from that."
Wednesday, Texas got the money back without making any changes, saving the state millions of dollars.
Thanks to a waiver granted by the Trump administration, Texas will receive $350 million in federal funds for its Healthy Texas Women program, the knockoff the state created when the federal funds dried up.
In October 2018, Texas announced that it was ending its contract with The Heidi Group, one of the Healthy Texas Women program's biggest providers, because the group repeatedly failed to serve the number of clients it promised the state it could over the previous two years.
According to a report from the Texas Observer, the group told the state it could serve nearly 51,000 in 2017 as part of Texas' Healthy Texas Women program, which provides low-income women with things like pregnancy tests and disease screenings. The Heidi Group served only 2,327 women at its 22 affiliated clinics throughout the state that year.
That's the kind of program the Trump administration believes is worthy of a first-of-its-kind waiver.
"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," Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said.
Advocates for women's health around Texas are outraged at the decision.
"In 2011, the state ignored federal guidelines and pushed Planned Parenthood out of the family-planning program, turning down the 9 to 1 federal dollar match and essentially dismantling the state’s reproductive healthcare safety net," NARAL Pro-Choice Texas Executive Director Aimee Arrambide said in a statement. "The state rebranded the Medicaid Women’s Health program to the state-run Healthy Texas Women. Since 2013, unburdened by the historic and reasoned Medicaid rules for effective healthcare delivery, the Healthy Texas Women program has failed to deliver healthcare at the same capacity and has wasted millions of dollars, that it is now trying to claw back, to the fraud and abuse of its handpicked contractors."
According to the Center for Public Policy Priorities, a left-leaning think tank, none of the cash will actually go toward supporting women's health. Instead, the money will simply replace funds already being spent by Texas.
"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,” said Stacey Pogue, a senior policy analyst with the think tank. “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.”
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