DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Cynthia Wilson of Dallas didn’t walk through the doors of a Planned Parenthood clinic looking for contraception—she’d found a suspicious lump that she later learned was an aggressive form of ovarian cancer.
“I was scared,” says Wilson. “I didn’t know what to do.” Between jobs, she had a pre-existing condition that made private insurance unaffordable. “I didn’t have a plan, I had no options. Planned Parenthood saved my life.”
Now, a disturbing new study appearing in the New England Journal of Medicine [ for full text of the article: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1207920 ] says poor and uninsured Texas women have fewer options for care, since state lawmakers slashed spending for family planning by roughly two-thirds during the last legislative session.
An allocation of $111 million dollars was cut to $37.9.
The report’s authors concluded that the neediest in our communities have seen a “71% reduction in capacity” because 48 of 68 private health centers have been forced to close or reduce hours. Some health centers in affluent communities have been able to continue service and keep costs down by raising private donations. But, that has not been the situation statewide. The report found that contraceptive services and well-women exams “remain out of reach for some of the poorest women. Those who cannot pay are turned away, whereas previously their visit would have been covered by public funds.”
According to figures from Texas’ Department of State Health Services, the annual cost for a well-woman exam and contraception is $240 in Medicaid funds. The annual cost for delivery and care for a child born on the Medicaid program is roughly $16,000. Local women’s advocates say the report’s findings only mirror their warnings to state lawmakers that money spent on women’s health services not only save lives—but, tax dollars as well.
“Currently in Texas, 56% of the births are already paid for by taxpayers, through the Medicaid program. That’s in the neighborhood of more than 2 billion dollars a year,” says Kelly Hart, Planned Parenthood Action Fund. We can only expect that to go up if women cannot afford contraceptives so they can plan and space their families the way they would prefer.”
Perhaps most sobering, was the authors’ conclusion that the state’s budget cuts were responsible for a “dismantling of a safety net that took decades to build, and could not easily be recreated even if funding were restored soon.”
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