By Katie Dudley
One in three Texas women are not insured. This makes it very difficult to obtain the proper preventive care necessary to enjoy a healthy life. The women themselves are not the only ones to carry the cost burden that accompanies the lack of regular preventive care, the state of Texas and taxpayers also pay a price.
Before the decision to cut funding during the 2011 Texas Legislative session, the Medicaid funded Women’s Health Program (WHP) and the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) Family Planning program helped over 300,000 women annually receive the services they need.
Budget Cuts for DSHS
The Texas Legislature’s decision to cut the budget for DSHS Family Planning programs by two-thirds cost the program approximately $37 million. This create a massive shortage of available clinics—San Saba, Lampasas, Coryell, Bosque, Bell, and McLennan counties have lost all DSHS Family Planning providers while the Panhandle area lost 86 percent—and put routine preventive services for low-income women out of reach. You can see below that Texas is already the state with the highest rate of women foregoing medical care due to costs. Researchers at George Washington University, found this results in higher pregnancy rates and more emergency room visits, which cost the state and taxpayers much more.
Loss of Federal Funding
When the state chose to cut funding for those clinics offering abortion services, it became in violation of the Medicaid program that funded the Women’s Health Program currently in place, thus forfeiting $32.3 million in federal funding as of December 31, 2012. If the state chooses to keep a local Texas Women’s Health Program without the federal funding it will have to find a way to replace the $30 million annual money lost.
According to the Texas Women’s Healthcare Coalition, the 2011 Family Planning cuts will cost Texas taxpayers at least $136 million in additional state Medicaid costs in the three years from 2013-2015.
As you can see in the graphic above, it costs substantially more for Medicaid covered births per woman than Medicaid contraception programs. The loss in funding toward DSHS Family Planning programs is expected to result in an estimated 23,000 more babies born in 2014-2015 and an estimated 8,000 more should the Women’s Health Program end. Both instances raise the potential for higher abortion rates even with loss of funding to such clinics. Angela Nguyen, LSCW, says the loss of access to clinics does not take away the desire for an abortion and those seeking one will often turn to unhealthy measures if a clinic is not available to them. This can result more costly medical problems due to unsafe procedures.
As you look at the map below, the states with lower rates of women foregoing treatment, such as Massachusetts are states, according to the George Washington University study, with a history of well funded state and federal preventive care programs.
It is expected that in 2014/2015, the state of Texas will have to come up with MONEY.