"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 Governor Abbott: finding a new provider in a state with a provider shortage," said Alexis McGill Johnson, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, in a press release. Just in the past year, 8,000 Medicaid recipients visited a Planned Parenthood in Texas, many relying on the health center for high-quality and affordable services such as STI testing and treatment, birth control, and cancer screenings, among others.
The ramifications of eliminating Medicaid funding is particularly detrimental to low-income Texans. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the Medicaid program in Texas has one of the most stringent and restrictive list of qualifications 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," said Dyana Limon-Mercado, executive director of Planned Parenthood Texas, in a press release.
Rachel Fey, senior director of public policy at Power to Decide, tells Well+Good that low-income communities may not be able to access other options. "I can't stress this enough how little income we are talking about when you're talking about this population. If they have to travel further to get birth control, they may not be able to afford the gas to get to and from that clinic or take time off work to do so," she says. "Planned Parenthood is one of the few places where people can reliably go for reproductive health care and know that their Medicaid card will be accepted." Eliminating Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood leaves low-income people with fewer quality options and denies thousands of people access to affordable health care.
The current ruling in Texas turns its back on Biden's pledge to prevent states from eliminating Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood, but it also goes against Medicaid statutes—which say that "[Medicaid] beneficiaries may obtain services from any qualified Medicaid providers that undertakes to provide the services to them." This isn't the state's first rodeo with restricting insurance options for people seeking care at health clinics that also provide abortion care. Back in 2019, Texas lawmakers passed Senate Bill 22, which prohibited government entities from providing money to clinics that provide abortion.
As of Thursday, Texans will no longer be able to access Planned Parenthood using Medicaid. To support Texans affected by this ruling, Fey suggests making a donation to BC Benefits contraceptive fund. "A $5 donation covers a month of birth control for someone otherwise unable to get it," she says. For people living in contraceptive deserts–the lack of access to a health center that provides a full range of contraceptive methods–you can get birth control delivered. Lastly, Fey says that people can take action by calling out policymakers on social media. "Shoutout policymakers who did this," she says. "Make your voice heard because it does matter."
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