Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Thousands of Texas Women May Lose Basic Health Care

By G. Sealy Massingill

As a physician, I am concerned that thousands of Texas’ uninsured women may soon lose access to basic preventive health care including family planning. Since 2007, Texas has supported the Women’s Health Program (WHP) — one of the most effective and efficient public health programs in the history of our state. A joint state and federal partnership, WHP has saved Texas millions of dollars by preventing more than 17,000 costly births under Medicaid.

WHP also has helped Texas’ low-income, uninsured (adult) women get important preventive screenings from a doctor, such as Pap smears, mammograms, and blood tests. Whether a woman is planning a pregnancy or wanting to delay getting pregnant, she needs basic preventive and reproductive health care. A healthy and well-timed pregnancy also helps ensure a healthy baby.

One out of four Texas women are uninsured. And each year, Texas has more than 400,000 births — about half of which Medicaid paid for. Without WHP, many of these uninsured women would not have access to care. In addition, it is disheartening that the Texas Legislature has added requirements that potentially could wipe out preventive care for uninsured women.

I have provided contraception and important health screenings for many low-income women over the years under WHP. These women sometimes come back with abnormal Pap smears or other abnormal test results, just like other women. They would not have the benefit of follow-up care and additional diagnostic screenings for serious diseases like cancer and HPV were it not for the Women’s Health Program. And many of our patients that we had previously seen for repeated pregnancies are now spacing their pregnancies or making the choice not to get pregnant because WHP gives them access to effective contraception and family planning care.

We as physicians know the substantial benefits to women who receive regular women’s health care and access to contraception. What we don’t know is how we will be able to care for all of Texas’ low-income and insured women without the Women’s Health Program.

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