Advocates call for public discussion and input about proposed cuts to health care programs for Texas women. State agencies have been directed to cut their budgets by about 5% to offset projected revenue shortfalls caused by the COVID-19 economic fallout. Groups like the Texas Women’s Healthcare Coalition are concerned the cuts will undermine the state’s efforts to support health moms, healthy pregnancies and healthy babies.
“The proposed cuts would end up costing the state more during our next budget cycle and would harm families who are already hurting during these very difficult times,” TWHC Chair Evelyn Delgado wrote in a letter to state lawmakers. “Considering the global health pandemic and over a million Texans losing employer-sponsored health insurance, we cannot afford to cut any health services, including women’s health.”
Texans Care for Children spokesperson Peter Clark wants a more transparent process.
“We are about to hit the end of the fiscal year and if the cuts are just going to be implemented without any formal decision, or public announcement, or public discussion, then that is certainly concerning,” Clark stated.
Clark characterized the process as ‘opaque’ and said it is making it hard to anticipate what’s going to happen with the next budget, which lawmakers will begin hammering out early next year. Instead of cutting funds for ‘badly needed programs’ for women’s health care, he would rather see state lawmakers dip into the state’s rainy day fund or pursue additional federal assistance.
“Instead of making things worse for Texas families, this is a moment in our state’s history when Texas leaders should really be funding the services that Texans need most,” he said.”
According to TWHC, the cost savings are realized from family planning services and preventive health care screenings. They help women avoid unintended pregnancies and eliminate the need for Medicaid-funded labor and delivery costs and a year of infant health care.
TWHC’s calculations peg the overall savings in fiscal year 2019 at about $140 million.
Delgado worries there will be a return to the days when funding for preventive care, including well-woman examinations, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and contraception for low-income women was cut. In 2011, more than 80 women’s health care clinics had to close. That was followed by a rise in Medicaid births and an increase in Medicaid costs of approximately $103 million.
“It has taken many years to stitch the safety net back together after the last budget cuts,” writes Delgado. “As the state continues responsive measures to preserve physical and fiscal health during the COVID-19 emergency, Texas cannot afford to cut support to health care programs, especially ones that have proven cost-savings.”
The state is facing a projected $4.6 billion revenue shortfall due to COVID-19 and its corresponding impact on the economy. If the numbers are right, it would be the largest budget gap in history.