From the Morning News:
Austin — Gov. Rick Perry dismissed concerns that 130,000 Texas women will lose cancer screenings and contraceptive services, saying Thursday that the Women’s Health Program — caught in a political crossfire between his administration and the federal government — will live on.
The governor suggested that the state would find money elsewhere within its multibillion dollar budget to make up for lost federal funds, but he wouldn’t give specifics on where the funding would come from.
The Medicaid program could be on its last leg because of a standoff between the Obama administration and Texas officials who want to ban Planned Parenthood from participating. Texas gets $35 million in federal funding for the program, which provides screenings, birth control and wellness exams for poor women.
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Perry must have been getting a tremendous amount of heat for him to cave in on this. It's a smart move. He has distanced himself from the nut fringe, but not by much. Had Perry not stepped in to guarantee funding (and exactly how he is going to do that remains to be seen), he would have seen a major gender gap open on his numbers. But there are a lot of potential problems. The state will not be able to have its program be compatible with the Medicaid program. This is hardly a heroic stance. It's self-preservation. Meanwhile, Perry has cut the state out of a 9 to 1 federal match. Madness!
S0, what will this new program be like? Where will women go to receive the services? What kind of oversight will there be on this pot of state money? This is a jerry-rigged structure that is destined to have a lot of problems. What facilities are set up to do the cancer screenings?
Speaker Straus put out a statement tonight:
"I am encouraged by the Governor's commitment to fund basic women's preventive health services. I still believe that a waiver provides the most cost-effective opportunity to do so, and I hope that the federal government will work with Texas to continue the Women's Health Program in compliance with both state and federal law. But Texas can't afford to let these critical services disappear. At a time when we are striving to improve public health and control costs in Medicaid, funding services that save lives and save money should be a priority."
This is a carefully worded statement. It offers no praise for Perry. It provides no support for what Perry wants to do. In fact, it says that a waiver would be a much better solution than Perry's. Straus is wise to distance himself from Perry. Women's health advocates are not going to be impressed by the governor's half-hearted, self-serving, ideology-based proposal.
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