Editor’s note: The Medicine With a Med Student series is written by Texas medical students. This three-part blog series focuses on women’s health services in Texas under the state’s Healthy Texas Women program, Texas Family Planning Program, and Breast and Cervical Cancer Services program. For more information about the authors, see below.
When it comes to health care, women have specific medical needs that require special attention, from family planning to pre- and post-menopausal care. However, a significant number of Texas women do not have health insurance to access those necessary medical services. Texas offers a number of free and low-cost statewide medical services, including programs dedicated to reproductive care in an effort to improve the overall health of Texas women. One such program is the Texas Family Planning Program (FPP).
Texas Family Planning Program
Over the past two decades, Texas has had a steep increase in unintended pregnancies and too many mother and infant deaths tied to pregnancy and birth. Teenage pregnancies have been slowly declining but at a rate much slower than the rest of the nation.
In Texas, there are almost 300,000 unintended pregnancies every year. The teen birth rate in Texas is 25 births per 1,000 teenage women. While many states have seen a decline in maternal and infant deaths, Texas has actually seen an increase. Many people believe these deaths could be prevented, so it is important that Texans have accessible and affordable resources to help guide women in their family planning.
One of those programs is the Texas Family Planning Program. It aims to provide affordable and accessible reproductive health care and family planning services to eligible women and men in Texas, including short- and long-term birth control, pelvic exams, and testing for pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection. People also can be screened for cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure, breast cancer, and cervical cancer. Since the pandemic, FPP also covers COVID-19 testing and telemedicine.
To be eligible for the program, patients must be a Texas resident, 64 years old or younger, and meet certain income requirements. Minors aged 17 and younger are required to obtain consent from a parent or guardian before receiving certain medical care. People meeting these criteria can search for and choose an FPP physician on the program’s website and make an appointment. The clinic can help with determining eligibility and enrollment. Patients may need to provide proof of income, which could be a copy of a paycheck stub, a form verifying that someone in your household is enrolled in a benefits program such as the Women, Infants and Children program or Medicaid, a letter from an employer, or an unemployment benefit award.
Find more information about the program online or call toll free at (512) 776-7796.
Breast and Cervical Cancer Services
The Breast and Cervical Cancer Services (BCCS) program helps fund clinics across the state, enabling them to provide high-quality, low-cost preventive care services to low-income, uninsured women.
Most important are the cervical and breast cancer screening exams. Cervical cancer is the third most common cause of cancer for Texas women aged 20 to 39 and the fifth for women aged 40 to 49. Even worse, breast cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death for Texas women. Still, more than 30% of the state’s women do not get regular pap smears or mammograms to check for these cancers.
Regular breast and cervical cancer screenings are important for pre- and post-menopausal women because early detection of suspicious bumps and lumps increases the likelihood of treatment success. Once an abnormality is found, BCCS will direct patients toward additional diagnostic testing, cervical dysplasia management and treatment, and assistance in applying to the Medicaid for Breast and Cervical Cancer program, which provides full Medicaid coverage to patients in active treatment for cervical or breast cancer.
Like the other women’s health programs discussed in this blog series, BCCS has specific eligibility requirements for coverage. Patients can qualify for BCCS services if they are an uninsured female, transgender, or nonbinary Texas resident between the ages of 18 and 64, and living at or below 200% of the federal poverty line. Once screened for these eligibility requirements and approved by the staff at a BCCS-qualified clinic, patients can access BCCS services for free.
Eligible patients can use this link to find a qualified physician nearby, or contact (512) 776-7796 or BCCSProgram@hhsc.state.tx.us for more information.
Stay tuned for Part 3 of this three-part series, which will take a look at developments in the 2021 Texas Legislature impacting Medicaid and women’s health.)
UT Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine, Class of 2021
First-year resident, UC Davis Family and Community Medicine
Immediate Past Chair, Texas Medical Association Medical Student Section (MSS) Executive Council
Medical Student at UT Health San Antonio Long School of Medicine
Member, TMA MSS
Medical Student at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
Member, TMA MSS