As the state attempts to implement a rule barring Planned Parenthood clinics from participating in the government-funded Women’s Health Program, the health commission has directed low-income women to use its online database to search for a new provider.
Nearly half of the women served by the program currently rely on Planned Parenthood. The commission says that more than 3,000 providers are available to serve these women, but many experts are skeptical that these facilities will be able to accommodate the women displaced by the new rule.
The database has garnered complaints from health care providers and patients for producing what they see as inflated and “misleading” search results. It includes a number of duplicate entries, facilities that do not provide reproductive health services (such as children’s clinics), and listings for clinics that are unable to see new program clients.
When confronted about the issue by The American Independent at an event hosted by The Texas Tribune, Janek insisted that the “3,000 providers” figure was accurate and that the error-prone database is “a separate list.”
“When we say that we’ve got 3,000 providers out there ready to participate in this program, there’s no duplicates,” he said.
Still, Janek admitted the inaccurate database is “a real problem.”
A study by George Washington University’s School of Public Health and Health Services found the state’s estimates of the impact of the rule to exclude Planned Parenthood appear to “contain numerous methodological flaws” and cautioned that the projections “may overstate remaining provider capacity in communities” where program participants live. The study added that the state might be counting reference laboratories “as sources of direct patient care.”
As detailed by TAI, the database also includes multiple listings of the same providers, lending the appearance of more options than actually available. On Wednesday, Janek addressed this concern as well.
Despite the database problems and questions of provider capacity, the commissioner reassured the audience he is “confident” the Texas Women’s Health Program will be ready for implementation by Nov. 1 if needed.
Yet, shortly after Janek gave this assurance, the commission announced that it would continue accepting federal funds for the time being, allowing Planned Parenthood to remain in the program for now.
Last week, a state judge issued a temporary restraining order barring Texas from excluding Planned Parenthood as long as the state continued accepting federal funds. A court hearing set for Nov. 8 may provide more clarity about the legal controversy surrounding the rule.