Judge rules against Texas in women's care dispute

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 21, 2012 at 12:40 pm •  Published: December 21, 2012
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WACO, Texas (AP) — Texas' request to force the U.S. Health and Human Services to continue funding its Women's Health Program was denied Friday, as a judge sided with federal authorities who say the state's exclusion of Planned Parenthood violates HHS guidelines.

U.S. District Judge Walter Smith's ruling won't affect the state's decision to move forward next year with an entirely state-funded program, even though the state was also seeking to keep its federal funding, said Stephanie Goodman, a spokeswoman for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. But Planned Parenthood, which serves more than 40 percent of the low-income women in Texas' program, questioned whether the state's efforts would be effective without federal funding or its clinics.

State lawmakers have banned any clinic affiliated with abortion providers from taking part in the Women's Health Program, which covers cancer screenings and other services for an estimated 130,000 low-income women. In response, federal authorities announced they would cut off funding, which pays for 90 percent of the family-planning costs and half of the administrative costs.

Smith denied a state request for a preliminary injunction to force U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius to keep the funding in place. Without an injunction, federal funding is expected to expire on Dec. 31.

Texas officials say they have created an entirely state-funded program, which, starting Jan. 1, will provide the same services but exclude Planned Parenthood, Goodman said. The program is estimated to cost $40 million a year.

Goodman said the commission had found "pockets of money" in its budget to fund the Women's Health Program through the end of the current fiscal year, which ends in August. The Legislature will have to pass funding to continue the program from September on, she said.

To help fund the program, Goodman said officials are reducing overtime costs and trying to improve efforts to recover Medicaid funds lost to fraud or wasteful spending.

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