Will Low-Income Women in Texas Find Care Without Planned Parenthood? An Analysis of the System Says the Answer is No
I’d like to describe Andrea Grimes and this post by using one of her favorite words: BALLER.
RH Reality Check set out to test the WHP’s non-Planned Parenthood provider listings over the past week and found that while initial searches of TexasWomensHealth.org turn up what appear to be hundreds of available providers, many of them don’t provide any kind of contraceptive care, don’t take Medicaid Women’s Health Program clients, or are simply misleading duplicate listings.
In Austin, for example, many WHP clients visit the Downtown Austin Clinic for contraceptives and cancer screenings. What if a resident of the 78702 zip code who formerly relied on Planned Parenthood had to suddenly find a new doctor?
We searched for providers within 30 miles of 78702, which turned up 137 doctors and clinics — initially, a very promising number. But once we weeded out the duplicates, we were left with just 49 individual providers, including those like the Austin Endoscopy Center. When we called to try to make a gynecological appointment there, we were understandably turned down: “This is a colon cancer center,” the operator told us. No women’s health care there.
Several times, locations listed on the Texas WHP website weren’t taking new Medicaid clients, were only taking those within a limited age range, or simply did not accept Medicaid Women’s Health Program patients. The People’s Community Clinic, which serves low-income and uninsured clients, told us they were only taking adolescents or pregnant women—and pregnant women are, by definition, excluded from the WHP.
The Austin Regional Clinic, which has several locations in Austin, looked promising until we were told, repeatedly, that they don’t accept Medicaid WHP clients—neither does the similarly situated Austin Diagnostic Clinic.
Ultimately, we were able to find nine providers within a 30-mile radius of our selected zip code that accepted the WHP and were taking new patients—some could see a patient for an annual exam as soon as the following day. Provided, of course, that clients are able to travel. The Lone Star Circle Of Care, which also focuses on under-served populations, had appointments in neighboring cities.
But for a WHP enrollee who may not have a car or who can’t afford to take a day or a half-day off from work, it may be a matter of having to make the difficult decision of choosing between several hours’ worth of pay—which could mean making rent or buying baby formula—or getting her annual exam.
And if Planned Parenthood is excluded from the WHP in Texas, there’s a good chance that WHP patients wouldn’t have the good luck we had in finding nine available providers if, as a George Washington University study predicts, existing providers simply will not be able to fill in the gaps left by Planned Parenthood.
[NB: More people than just cis women are affected by these draconian changes to the WHP.]
Now imagine trying to do the same thing RH Reality Check did while working full-time and caring for children.