The good news is that the Texas Legislature is poised to increase funding for preventive care, which will help restore access, rebuild the safety net, and reduce Medicaid costs.
Invest in preventive care for low-income women
Lost in the highly charged political debate is the fact that “women’s health” includes far more than abortions. Now that the federal government has withdrawn its support, the state must continue to find a way to ensure that women continue to have access to preventive services and to finance a robust Texas Women’s Health Program..
The Women’s Health Program, which does not provide abortions, delivers cost-effective basic health care screenings — such as for cancer, high blood pressure, and diabetes — as well as birth control. This is the only source of such preventive care for many low-income women in Texas.
More than 70 percent of pregnancies among single young women in Texas are unplanned.Increasing the number of women who enroll in the Women’s Health Program after a Medicaid delivery is especially important. Women who have had a Medicaid-funded delivery are at particularly high risk for subsequent pregnancy, often so soon that risks of prematurity and low birth weight are elevated. Babies born too soon or too small often have significant health problems, such as respiratory or developmental delays, contributing to higher medical costs at birth and as the child ages. In 2007, unplanned Medicaid births cost the state more than $1.2 billion.
If we want healthy children and adults – healthy Texans – who are not going to continue to be a burden on the social welfare system, then we should champion ways to make individuals responsible for their contraception and personal health. Texas must educate young people about contraception. Studies show educating teenagers about contraception actually delays sexual intercourse and decreases unintended pregnancies. By rebuilding Women’s Health Program, Texas can give young couples the tools to take responsibility for their future and protect their own health and their children’s.