AUSTIN, Texas — Today, a state court ruled that Gov. Greg Abbott can ban Texans with low incomes who rely on Medicaid from receiving life-saving health care at Planned Parenthood. This ruling puts Texas in direct conflict with the Biden administration’s warning that states cannot withhold Medicaid funding from Planned Parenthood. Doing so violates federal Medicaid law and will threaten the state’s entire Medicaid program, on which 4 million people rely for basic health care.
This decision leaves patients with low incomes few places to turn in a state with a severe provider shortage and the ongoing effects of Abbott’s refusal to adequately prepare his state for last month’s winter storm. In the past year alone, 8,000 patients eligible for Medicaid visited a Planned Parenthood health center for birth control, cancer screenings, STI testing and treatment, and other preventive services.
Now, Gov. Abbott is putting one more hurdle in front of the same people who are struggling the most from COVID-19 and statewide power outages: People with low incomes, people of color, and women. The health care infrastructure for people with low incomes in Texas is already in tatters because of one political attack after another.
Statement from Alexis McGill Johnson, president, Planned Parenthood Action Fund:
“As Texans grapple with the compounding crises of the pandemic and impacts of the deadly winter storm, thousands of people who rely on Medicaid will now face another obstacle built by Gov. Abbott: finding a new provider in a state with a provider shortage. It didn’t have to be this way for Texans. But true to form, Gov. Abbott continues to put his politics before the people he was elected to serve. Texans need more provider options, especially during a pandemic that has claimed more than 41,000 lives across the state. We remain committed to fighting for Texans and ensuring the Biden administration makes good on their commitment to enforce the Medicaid law in all states — because your income level and zip code shouldn’t determine whether you can access the life-saving health care you need.”
Statement from Dyana Limon-Mercado, executive director, Planned Parenthood Texas Votes:
“Instead of leading Texans through the multiple crises we currently face — the aftermath of a severe storm and an ongoing global pandemic — Gov. Abbott is focused on taking away health care access for the most vulnerable Texans. This is another failure in the long list of failures Abbott has racked up when it comes to doing what is best for the people of Texas rather than what is best for his political career. The 8,000 Planned Parenthood patients who rely on Medicaid should be able to access care at the provider they know and trust. Without access to the comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care Planned Parenthood provides, thousands of lives are now at even greater risk. Planned Parenthood will do everything it can to protect and fight for its patients — since it remains painfully clear that Abbott and his administration will continue to fail Texans in the most devastating ways.”
In addition to the Biden administration’s statement, the Texas Democratic congressional delegation condemned Abbott’s attack in a letter warning him of the devastating public health consequences of blocking Planned Parenthood from the program.
Abbott’s urgency to block Planned Parenthood patients from the care they need during a pandemic left patients with 30 days to scramble for a new provider in a Medicaid system already suffering from chronic provider shortages. In addition, according to the lawsuit filed in the District Court of Travis County, Texas, the Abbott administration shirked clearly outlined procedures involved in the process of terminating Medicaid providers.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the Texas Medicaid program is the most restrictive in the country — to be eligible, income for one person with one child cannot exceed $196 per month. In addition, adults without children, no matter how poor, are not eligible to receive Medicaid unless they are pregnant or have a disability.
Generations of racist and discriminatory policies have forced a disproportionate number of people of color and women to enroll in public health programs like Medicaid. When politicians attack Medicaid patients, who already navigate inherently discriminatory systems with fewer freedoms than others, those patients lose the ability to choose the best provider for them. It’s one more assault against the same communities that face unjust, systemic barriers to basic human rights, including access to affordable health care, education, and housing.
In 2011, Texas replaced the federally backed Medicaid family planning program with its own state-funded program after the Obama administration refused to allow Texas to exclude Planned Parenthood affiliates and other abortion providers from its Medicaid program. Last year, the Trump administration allowed federal funds to go back into Texas’s failed program, which serves 39% fewer women and only a fraction of the millions who critically need reproductive health care. Planned Parenthood health centers in Texas were also cut from the joint state-federal Breast and Cervical Cancer Services (BCCS) program in 2015. Planned Parenthood had partnered with the BCCS program for more than 20 years. In some Texas communities, Planned Parenthood was the only provider of BCCS services. Gov. Abbott’s latest attack on comprehensive health care access for Medicaid patients follows years of attempts by Texas to cut off Medicaid patients from Planned Parenthood affiliates based on a series of elaborate, false, and debunked claims peddled by opponents of safe and legal abortion.
Planned Parenthood Action Fund is an independent, nonpartisan, not-for-profit membership organization formed as the advocacy and political arm of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. The Action Fund engages in educational, advocacy and electoral activity, including grassroots organizing, legislative advocacy, and voter education.
Planned Parenthood Texas Votes (PPTV) is the nonpartisan policy, advocacy and political arm for the Planned Parenthood affiliates in Texas.