Obama Administration Cuts Off Medicaid Funding to Texas for Women’s Health

Yesterday federal officials announced that all Medicaid funding for the Women’s Health Progam, about $30 million, will be withheld following Gov. Rick Perry’s decision to implement a new state law that excludes Planned Parenthood clinics as providers under the program.

The law, which took effect on March 14, prohibits Planned Parenthood or any other facility with ties to abortion providers from delivering cancer screening, contraceptives and basic health care to low-income women under the Medicaid Women’s Health Program. About 130,000 women in Texas are eligible for the program and according to a USA Today article about 44 percent of them get care at Planned Parenthood clinics. No state or federal money can be used to pay for abortions but Planned Parenthood clinics had provided a range of other health services to women.

Federal Medicaid law provides that women should be able to select their caregivers.  "Neither the federal government nor the state government are permitted to stop people from getting services from their trusted source of care, as long as the provider is qualified to provide the service and the provider participates in the Medicaid program," the Austin American-Stateman quoted Cindy Mann, director of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. "Texas has decided to implement a new rule which is contrary to this freedom-of-choice provision."

Texas has been given until the end of 2012 to phase out the program. The state has to submit a phase-out plan to Washington by April 16.

Gov. Perry had been quoted in a number of media sources including the Houston Chronicle promising the state would pick up the costs for the program if the federal government cut off the funds. Already family planning funds in Texas have been cut $73 million so it is uncertain where he will find funds.

While federal Medicaid officials said the federal government had no choice and the law was clear, Gov. Perry characterized the move as an overreach of the Obama administration. He told the Austin American-Stateman, "Texans send a substantial amount of our tax dollars to Washington, D.C., and it is unconscionable that the Obama administration has essentially told Texas it will send our tax dollars back to fund this program only if we violate state law and include its pro-abortion allies."

Other states passed legislation in 2011 to end funding for women’s health services to providers who also provide abortions. In Indiana, Kansas and North Carolina judges have blocked state laws similar to the Texas law. Wisconsin has withheld funding for family planning and breast cancer screening.