Sharpening our wits on the grindstone of Life: <i>Cheers and Jeers</i> .comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Sharpening our wits on the grindstone of Life

Friday, April 08, 2005

Cheers and Jeers

Senate passes bill to expand family planning
SB 747—Medicaid Waiver for Women’s Health

The good news is, the 79th Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 747. With passage of the bill in the House (HB 2663), an estimated 500,000 women covered by Medicaid will be eligible for regular screenings for diabetes, anemia, cervical and breast cancers, STDs, hypertension, cholesterol and tuberculosis. They’ll also be eligible for contraception.

Currently in Texas, women who are covered by Medicaid are only eligible for the services if they are living at or below 17 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $3,300 annually for a family of four. The bill would expand eligibility to women living at or below 185 percent of the poverty level, or about $34,000 for a family of four.

The bad news is, smaller minds have prevailed because of the perception that this bill supports abortion. Although the bill specifically prevents tax dollars from being used for abortions, Senator Robert Deuell, R-Greenville, had to go further. He added an amendment that prohibits the state from contracting with organizations that promote or perform abortions, or their affiliates.

In essence, this is the state saying to health care providers, “either you agree with my opinion, or I will punish you financially”. So much for diversity of opinion, freedom of choice, or even having the best interests of citizens in mind. This amendment is designed solely to placate the uber-conservatives who only support “big government” when it intrudes into someone else’s business.

It’s estimated that 25% of Texans do not have health insurance. This bill allows a portion of them better access to health care, and is estimated to save the state almost $140 million in five years because of the preventive nature of the services. But the amendment limits where women can go to receive those services, and solely because a self-righteous zealot wants to hurt organizations that believe an individual should have a choice when it comes to her own life and health.

Last month, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Texas can withhold federal money from clinics that provide abortions, as long as the clinics are allowed to create independent affiliates that continue receiving money to provide other health services.

Deuell's amendment would prevent the state from contracting with such affiliates. If it passes the House in its present form, it likely would be challenged in court.

Let’s hope so. Lawmakers should not be able to financially punish legitimate businesses, particularly those that are providing services that better the lives of our citizens, because of differences in philosophy.


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