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Women’s Health Program to Continue November 1 Sans Federal Funds

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State health officials plan to roll out the Texas Women’s Health Program November 1. KERA’s BJ Austin says it will continue family planning services for low income women without any federal funds.

Federal officials are revoking the Women’s Health Program’s funding because the State Legislature excluded Planned Parenthood and other family planning organizations that have ties to elective abortion providers. Medicaid officials in Washington say that limits a woman’s right to choose her family planning provider and that’s against the rules. The move left 130 thousand Texas women wondering if they would lose access to birth control and regular women’s health checkups.

Billy Milwee, the state’s Medicaid director, told a Dallas town hall meeting on federal healthcare reform those women will continue to receive those services.

Milwee: We’re going to continue without our current program through the end of October and the first of November we stand up a Texas Women’s Health Program, which is totally funded by the state. It won’t have a federal contribution.

Milwee says they are enforcing the state law banning Planned Parenthood and others starting May first. He expects about 3 percent of all statewide Women’ Health Program providers will be removed from the program. And he says that could mean an adjustment for some patients.

Milwee: They may have to find a new provider. We’ll help them do that. But, the services will continue.

Milwee says they’re still working on a budget, how much money they actually need. The current cost, funded primarily with federal funds, is about 40 million dollars a year. Milwee says they’ll find it in the state budget – money already appropriated.

Milwee: We’re working as hard as we can to identify where those funds will come from without affecting any, having a negative impact on any other programs.

The confirmation of state funding was good news to Interim CEO of Parkland Hospital, Dr. Thomas Royer.

Royer: It’s a big part of New Parkland and it’s a big part of the community clinics that we are going to be expanding over the next several years. And we must stay committed to women’s and infant’s health.

Former KERA reporter BJ Austin spent more than 25 years in broadcast journalism, anchoring and reporting in Atlanta, New York, New Orleans and Dallas. Along the way, she covered Atlanta City Hall, the Georgia Legislature and the corruption trials of Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards.