A recent story in the Houston Chronicle, by Peggy Fikac, explains how the women’s health program will be funded. According to the story:
The state plans to use funds from a Medicaid fraud crackdown and services deemed unnecessary, plus a hiring freeze on administrative positions in health and human services to pay for the $40.1 million program.
The rest will come from savings due to eligibility-system changes, an overtime reduction and state money appropriated for the program before Texas got on the wrong side of the federal government by banning Planned Parenthood and other clinics affiliated with abortion providers.
While this is certainly good news, it does not come close to solving the problem of how the Women’s Health Program will provide services to its clients. The problem has never been the money. The problem is the providers–or the lack thereof. Planned Parenthood was providing most of the health care services, so the question is, Who will take the place of Planned Parenthood? There aren’t very many options. One is FQHC’s (Federally Qualified Health Centers). Another is emergency rooms. The problem with the former is that the purpose of FQHC’s is to treat sick people. The problem with the latter is that providers are busy treating emergencies and don’t have time to deal with dispensing birth control pills and offering cancer screenings. The fundamental issue is this: As long as Planned Parenthood was around, women in need of services knew where to go to get the help they needed. (And, no, I’m not talking about abortions.) Now they don’t know where to go. That may be the fatal weakness of the program–and it doesn’t bode well for women.