By Janet Realini, MD, MPH
Panels in both the Texas House and Senate have recommended $100 million additional funding for women’s preventive care, including family planning. The additional funding would flow through the Department of State Health Service (DSHS)’s Primary Health Care (PHC) program and be earmarked for health screenings, contraceptives, perinatal services, and dental services for women aged 18 to 64.
This development is enormously encouraging to the Texas Women's Healthcare Coalition, a coalition of organizations—including both TMA and the TMA Alliance—working to restore access to preventive care for low-income Texas women.
Women’s preventive care was severely cut in the 2011 Texas Legislature, when $73 million was diverted from the DSHS Family Planning program, leaving Texas’ women’s health “safety net” in tatters. Two-thirds of the 53 clinics that closed were not related to Planned Parenthood. An estimated 147,000 women lost access to preventive care and birth control. As a result, Texas taxpayers will pay an additional $136 million in Medicaid birth costs in 2013-2015.
While the proposed PHC funding is a good start, there is still much to do to ensure access to preventive care and birth control for the 1 million Texas women who need it. For example, Texas must also ensure continued funding and provider capacity for the Texas Women’s Health Program, which serves another 130,000 women.
Texas Medical Association and TMA Alliance members, patients, and friends are invited to participate in Women's Health Advocacy Day in Austin on Wednesday March 20. The event will begin at 10 AM at TMA’s Thompson Auditorium and will equip advocates to talk about the importance of women’s preventive care with their legislators.
With strong advocacy from physicians, patients, and other allies, the Texas Women’s Healthcare Coalition is hopeful that more Texas women will have access to the care they need to have healthy, planned pregnancies.