Capitol News: Small Victories and Missed Opportunities for Women’s Health
Texas’ 85th Regular Legislative Session has come to an end. Though legislators will return to Austin for a special session starting July 18th, we’d like to provide an update on both the successes and the missed opportunities for women’s preventive health care in Texas this past session.
The amount of funding the state appropriated for the state’s women’s health programs for the 2018-19 biennium was level with the amount of funding appropriated in 2016-17. In a tough fiscal climate where many health and human services programs experienced substantial cuts, this represents a substantial victory for family planning programs.
The Legislature also pushed through several positive bills and budget riders, including provisions to:
- improve data collection for the state’s family planning programs;
- study auto-enrolling young women from CHIP/Medicaid into the Healthy Texas Women (HTW) program;
- require the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to develop a strategic plan to increase access to long-acting reversible contraception (implants and IUDs); and
- look at different ways to address the state’s high maternal mortality rates.
Unfortunately, this session also had its disappointments, including Governor Abbott’s decision to veto a bill that would have continued the Women’s Health Advisory Committee (WHAC).
The state budget also assumes that Texas will successfully apply for a federal 1115 Family Planning waiver to fund the state’s HTW program, and HHSC has already submitted its application to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS). The receipt of a waiver could have a significant impact on the funding, eligibility, and services of our state’s women’s health programs. It will be important to monitor the progress of the waiver application during the legislative interim.