Texas Women's Health Program Still Says it Has Enough Docs, Even As It's Forced To Take Down Its Error-Riddled Provider Database

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On January 1, Texas took over the Women's Health Program, booted Planned Parenthood out and dyed the website several shades of Pepto Bismol pink. Despite quite a bit of evidence to the contrary, Health and Human Services Commission officials continue to claim there'll be more than enough doctors for every woman still in the program, even without Planned Parenthood. The latest stat they're handing out is that there will be "five family planning clinics and more than 70 individual physicians in the program for every clinic that won't qualify under the new rule," according to this new Q&A.

But just who are those doctors and clinics? Back in September, RH Reality Check reporter Andrea Grimes found that the listed WHP providers in Austin left much to be desired. The WHP website at that time had a function where you could search through a database for providers in your zip code, within a 30-mile radius. But besides having duplicated entries, the database listed places like "radiology associates and labs and pediatricians and even closed clinics," as Grimes wrote. A similar analysis by the Dallas Morning News this month found that the Dallas provider list is, surprise, also riddled with errors, including listings for a title loan company and a sports medicine clinic.

"I don't know anything about any women's health program," a receptionist told me last week, when I called five providers in my ZIP code. (She was the only person who picked up the phone or returned messages left on Friday morning.)

So, that's embarrassing. Seemingly in response to the DMN article, the HHSC recently pulled the entire provider database off the WHP site. The new page directs women who need a doctor to call a 1-800 number.

HHSC spokeswoman Linda Edwards Gockel told the DMN that a new provider list would be up in about a week, adding that the agency was "working on the website look up list to make it more useful for women searching for a new provider." She said they would take out entries for locations that don't provide "a comprehensive family planning exam" and reorganizing the listed results so that the providers who were able to take the most patients would be listed first.

In other words, the HHSC is still claiming they have plenty of doctors to go around. Seventy to one. Great odds. They just can't make the full list available to the general public right this minute.

What's puzzling about this whole thing is that the HHSC recently released a Patient Capacity Report to back up that more-than-enough doctors claim. They only received an answer from 44 percent of the providers in question, and went on to sort of guesstimate how many patients the non-responding clinics will be able to take on in the future.

So the claim is that the HHSC surveyors at least attempted to contact every clinic in the state that's listed as a WHP member. Shouldn't they have noticed at some point that they were also calling sports medicine clinics and title loan centers and endoscopy providers? There's no mention of that in the report -- only claims that the survey results were "positive" and the patient coverage was "robust."

Rep. Donna Howard of Austin told the Texas Tribune that the survey results seem "overly optimistic." Another, less diplomatic term for that might be that they seem like bullshit.

Rep. Jessica Farrar, a state rep from Houston, also seems to smell something unpleasant. According to the Tribune, she's filed an open records request asking that the HHSC release a full list of providers in the program, "along with the number of patients they anticipate serving, the number of patients served by the former Medicaid Women's Health Program and the geographical areas in the state where provider enrollment does not meet demand."

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The whole program stinks to high heaven. 18-44 yrs old only. Why? Most women who get cancers or need screening are older. Age of consent in TX is 16. Why not start there? The website says infertile/sterilized women need not apply. Why? Don't they contract STDs/cancers/have boobs? How do you prove you are NOT infertile? What if you haven't had sex yet? But want birth-control for the inevitable? The number of ways they have made this UNavailable to women is myriad. Useless. Why ONLY FERTILEs need to apply? That's just creepy to the point of state-mandated breeding.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

That is somewhat troubling that even a state legislator has to file an open records request with a state agency in order to get the information.

I have a better suggestion for Rep.Farrar.  Decline to fund HHSC until they cough up the information.

holmantx topcommenter

Bart Simpson:  Pay for your own abortions, man.

and don't have cow.


So which Perry administration-appointed hack in the THHSC is going to be held accountable for this fiasco and fired?  Yeah, that's what I thought. 


@holmantx We're not actually talking about abortions right now, because the WHP is only for non-pregnant women. It's meant to help them get access to annual exams, birth control, and STD testing. Those are things that are especially sorely needed in Texas, which has one of the highest rates of uninsured people in the nation.

But while you're obsessing about abortion, let's go there, shall we? Fifty seven percent of all women in the United States pay for their abortions out of pocket. (Here's a slideshow the Guttmacher institute did on that, as well as some other abortion statistics. You should really take a look at it. http://www.guttmacher.org/media/inthenews/2013/01/08/index.html)

Mythology aside, you're not paying for other people's abortions with your tax dollars. Public funding isn't available for abortions in Texas except in the case of rape, incest, or the woman's life being endangered. (There's a fact sheet on that too. Here you go: http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/sfaa/texas.html )


@CitzenKim He has not been held accountable for:

1) the technology fund fiasco

2) the Texas Cancer Program scandal

nor has he repaid the state for his failed bid for president of the GOP.

Reminds me of the former Illinois Governor who is currently making license plates for his state.

holmantx topcommenter

@Anna_Merlan @holmantx Until you recognize that our resources are finite and that this state must prioritize, we talk past each other. This country the states and cities are way past broke.  We have been funding social services beyond the elderly, the afflicted and minors with debt for many years now and it's overtaken us.  So long as you demand costly medical services without identifying where you want to shift precious revenues to pay for it, you are nothing more than white noise.

Just today, the wall of stories continue to roll in:

Taxachusetts, Here We Go Again - Julie Mehegan, Boston Herald

California Speeds Toward a Wall of Debt - Steven Greenhut, Bloomberg

Fiscal Fight Is One for the Generations - Mort Kondracke, Roll Call

Let Republicans Hit the Debt Ceiling First - Joe Conason, National Memo

Obama's America: The Road to Detroit - John Sitkiewicz, Bastiat Institute


@holmantx @Anna_Merlan Your point about not being able to afford X in state Y would be more effective with support directly relating to State Y and not State A, B, or C.

This is one of those times where the money spent preventing unwanted pregnancies, STDs, etc. will save money down the road in caring for those items (the whole "ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" idea).  Yes in a perfect world we'd be able to tell everyone to stop having sex until they're ready to deal with what might come from it but it doesn't work that way.  That was Plan A and it doesn't work for all of society, so now we need to figure out a Plan B.


@greg.howard88 Did you move or something? Haven't seen you in the office in like six months. What gives, dude? 

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