May 2, 2011
The Honorable Robert F. Deuell, MD
P.O. Box 12068
Austin, Texas 78711
RE: Senate Bill 1854
Dear Senator Deuell:
On behalf of the 45,000 physician and medical student members of the Texas Medical Association, I am writing to thank you for your perseverance in support of the Women’s Health Program (WHP). With strong bipartisan support, Texas implemented the program in 2007 to provide low-income women access to preventive health screenings and contraception (but not abortion) so that they could better plan and space their pregnancies. Since its inception, the program has served more than 235,000 women, resulting in some $40 million in savings for Texas Medicaid.
TMA is a staunch proponent of WHP and feels strongly that the program must be maintained. Without legislative intervention, WHP will expire at the end of this year. Senate Bill 1854 would extend the program through September 2016. While the bill does not address all of our WHP legislative objectives, such as implementing the Legislative Budget Board’s recommendation to expand eligibility and outreach, we recognize that SB 1854 is a compromise among stakeholders with strongly divergent views about how best to structure the program. With the legislative clock ticking, it is ultimately more important to preserve WHP and pass this bill. The program is an essential element in Texas’ efforts to reduce unplanned pregnancies and promote better birth spacing, which we know contribute to our mutual goals of promoting healthier mothers and babies and reducing pregnancy- and neonatal-related Medicaid expenditures.
We would be remiss if we did not convey our concerns that some provisions of SB 1854 would decrease the ability of women to timely obtain WHP services. Convenient and timely access to care is critical to maintaining the cost effectiveness of the program. We respectfully suggest that the bill be amended to require the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to study and report back to the legislature on how the changes affect availability of services and cost savings. The commission also should make recommendations for cultivating participation in WHP by additional physician practices and community health clinics to fill any gaps.
Again, thank you for your steadfast efforts to maintain this successful program.
Susan R. Bailey, MD
Texas Medical Association
82nd Texas Legislature Testimonies