AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas officials have asked for more time to phase out federal funding for a women’s health program after federal officials said it was illegal for the state to ban Planned Parenthood from participating in it, according to documents released Tuesday.
Until this year, federal funds covered 90% of the cost of the Women’s Health Program, which provides routine exams, contraception and preventive health services to low-income women. But after Texas lawmakers banned groups affiliated with abortion providers from participating in the program, the federal Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) said it would cut off funding because federal law guarantees women the right to choose their health care providers.
Federal officials proposed phasing out funding for the program by September, but Texas’ Medicaid director Billy Millwee said Tuesday the state needs more time to publish new rules for the program. He has proposed phasing out the funding by November.
Alper Ozinal, a CMS spokesman, said the agency is considering the request and “will be working with the state to reach a mutually agreeable transition plan that complies with the law while protecting beneficiaries.”
Meanwhile, Attorney General Greg Abbott has sued the federal government to have funding restored, and nine clinics affected by the rule have sued the state.
Gov. Rick Perry, R, has ordered Texas to cover the lost federal funding. Allowing the $35 million program to expire would have cost the state more in the long run because of additional unplanned pregnancies and health problems among poor women covered by Medicaid.