Demonstrators celebrate in front of the U.S. Supreme Court after it struck down a Texas law on abortion clinics, on June 27, 2016. File Photo by Pat Benic/UPI | License Photo
May 16 (UPI) -- The State of Texas wants the federal government to resume Medicaid funding for its women's health program, four years after giving up the money so it could ban Planned Parenthood from participating.
Under President Barack Obama, federal health officials wouldn't allow Texas to receive Medicaid funds after it excluded Planned Parenthood, because federal law requires states to give Medicaid beneficiaries their choice of "any willing provider."
However, President Donald Trump now favors giving the state approval to ban Planned Parenthood with no financial consequences.
"They're asking the federal government to do a 180 on its Medicaid program rules," Elizabeth Nash, a policy analyst at the Guttmacher Institute, a research center that supports abortion rights, told The New York Times. "Depending how this shakes out, you could see a number of other states follow suit."
In 2013, Texas' program began entirely state-financing a program when it cut out providers that "perform or promote elective abortions," or contract or affiliate with providers that do so. In the first 18 months, the state lost $35 million in federal Medicaid funds
Healthy Texas Women provides contraception and screenings for cancer, HIV and sexually transmitted diseases for women with incomes up to 200 percent of the poverty level — about $23,760 — who do not qualify for Medicaid.
"The waiver is sort of a mechanism to have this program to be recognized and draw down federal funds for it," explained Michael Ghasemi of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, during a Women's Health Advisory Committee meeting Monday.
The state has a 30-day public comment period on the waiver application, which started Friday.
Advocate Stacey Pogue, of the Center for Public Policy Priorities, pointed out at the advisory meeting that states seeking federal money have to follow federal laws.
"Waiving freedom of choice is inconsistent with federal law," she said. "So we have a concern that submitting the waiver as is, invites litigation."
Yvonne Gutierrez, executive director of Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, the group's political arm, said it may file a lawsuit if the waiver is granted.
"I think it's probably something a number of national organizations are considering because this could have ramifications nationally if a waiver from a state is accepted that essentially excludes providers," she explained. "So, this is much larger and broader than Texas."
Missouri ended its Medicaid waiver program for family planning services and set up a state-financed program that excludes abortion providers. Iowa is considering a similar move.
Texas wants to cut off all Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood. A federal judge blocked the effort earlier this year, but the state is appealing the decision.
Last month, Trump signed legislation to cut off separate federal family planning money for Planned Parenthood and other groups that perform abortions. The House legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act would defund the organization for a year and ban federal subsidies to buy insurance that pays for abortion.