Texas Asks Feds To Fund Women's Health Program Through October

Texas is asking the federal government to continue funding its Women's Health Program for five more months - through October - to give the state time to take over the program.

The Associated Press: Texas Seeks Fund Extension For Women's Health Plan
Texas officials have asked for more time to phase out federal funding for a women's health program after federal officials said it was illegal for the state to ban Planned Parenthood from participating in it, according to documents released Tuesday. ... Federal officials proposed phasing out funding for the program by September, but Texas' Medicaid director Billy Millwee said Tuesday the state needs more time (Tomlinson, 4/17).

Houston Chronicle: State Says It Is Ready To Take Over Women's Health Program In Nov.
The federal government provides 90 percent of the funding for the existing program, which provides health screening and contraceptives to low-income women. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has said it will phase out that funding following passage last year of a bill that would bar providers affiliated with abortion providers, even if those clinics do not provide abortions. Medicaid rules prohibit such a ban (Fikac and Kever, 4/17). 

The Dallas Morning News: State Asks Feds For More Time To Set Up Women’s Health Program 
The highly respected Women's Health Program costs about $35 million annually and provides cancer, diabetes and cholesterol screenings, as well as contraception, to about 130,000 low-income, uninsured women (Hoppe, 4/17).

The Texas Tribune: Texas Outlines Future Plans for Women's Health Program
So far, HHSC reports that the program has saved the government millions of dollars that would have been spent on Medicaid births. CMS requested the transition plan after it rejected the state’s enforcement of a rule that excludes Planned Parenthood from being part of the program, even though the funding went to Planned Parenthood’s family-planning clinics that do not perform abortions. State officials in the Legislature and Gov. Rick Perry have said their affiliations and willingness to refer patients for abortions are enough to disqualify them from the program (Tan, 4/17).

In the meantime, three Planned Parenthood branches in Texas are mulling a merger --

The Texas Tribune: Texas Planned Parenthood Branches Will Vote on Merger
The boards of three regional Planned Parenthood branches — North Texas, Central Texas and the Capital Region — will vote today on a proposed merger designed to form a $29 million-per-year mega-organization with 26 clinics. ... It would provide birth control for 103,000 people and perform an estimated 8,500 abortions per year, in addition to screening tens of thousands of people for breast and cervical cancers and sexually transmitted infections (Ramshaw, 4/18).

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