The Medicaid Women’s Health Program in Texas was working wonderfully for Christina LuQuis and her family until January of this year, when she found herself caught in the middle of Texas’ political fight to oust Planned Parenthood from the state’s federally-funded Medicaid program. In need of fast, affordable health care when complications surfaced with her IUD in January, LuQuis discovered that the system she’d relied on for years—the system that had served her and her family so well—might be taken away from her. Three months later, “might” has turned into a sure thing. Now, LuQuis says she’s “at wits’ end.”
After LuQuis and her husband had a daughter three years ago, they decided to look into hormone-free, semi-permanent birth control. An IUD seemed like the best option—except for the cost, which LuQuis found out could be as much as $750, much more than they could afford. That’s when she found out about the WHP.
“The paperwork wasn’t too much of a hassle and after a few weeks my Medicaid card came in the mail,” LuQuis told Rewire via e-mail. “We took it down to Planned Parenthood and I got my IUD inserted.”
Problem solved—until January, when LuQuis’ IUD suddenly expelled itself. That’s when LuQuis realized, when re-applying for the WHP to get a new IUD, that Governor Rick Perry, Health and Human Services Commissioner Thomas Seuhs, Attorney General Greg Abbott and conservative lawmakers around the state had been making “efforts to defund Planned Parenthood at any cost.” And as for LuQuis, she said, “At any cost happened to be my contraception coverage unfortunately.”
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LuQuis, who is a stay-at-home-mom, and her husband are getting by on his unemployment benefits after he was recently laid off. They can’t afford another child. But neither can they afford another IUD. Or, for that matter, a safe and legal abortion.
Whereas the Texas Department of Health and Human Services has repeatedly reassured Rewire that changing Texas’ Women’s Health Program from a federally-funded to a state-funded system will require a minimum of inconvenience to enrollees, that doesn’t reflect LuQuis’ experience.
She re-applied for the WHP in January, but has yet to hear back on her enrollment approval. And if she’s admitted into the program, she still doesn’t know what that will look like, or whether she’ll be able to get the fast, safe care she has always gotten at Planned Parenthood from one of the other clinics and doctors in Texas that are now forced to take on the nearly 50,000 Texas women that Planned Parenthoods across the state had previously been seeing.
LuQuis said she worries about being caught between two difficult choices—choices she’d not be facing if conservative Texas lawmakers had not decided to fix a system that wasn’t broken.
“I fear that we will get pregnant and need an abortion because now is not the right time to add to our family,” said LuQuis, adding, “I don’t want to have an abortion but I feel that without birth control I will have to make that decision to either add another child to our family that we cannot afford or have an abortion we can’t afford.”
In the meantime, Planned Parenthood has filed suit against the State of Texas over its exclusion from the program, and a judge will hear arguments this week for and against a preliminary injunction that would allow Planned Parenthood to remain in the program past the existing cut-off of April 30th.
The health care organization has also merged three of its Texas branches into one organization — the Austin, Waco and Dallas Fort-Worth groups will be known as Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas. The move will help strengthen the group by consolidating medical records and logistical issues.
According to Waco’s KXXV, which talked to Planned Parenthood’s Director of Community Affairs, Felicia Goodman:
Consolidating work, like billing and back-office functions, without slashing jobs, will save precious dollars.
“With all of the funding cuts to family planning and with the women’s health program ending, it’s really important, especially in Waco, it’s important that we’re here for our patients no matter what,” Goodman said, referring to the recent loss of state and federal funding for the Medicaid Women’s Health Program.
The State of Texas said this week that its state-funded WHP will officially launch November 1st—just days before voters will head to the polls. If the state is hoping the timing will give Republicans an electoral boost, it isn’t working with Christina LuQuis. She’s already written into Gov. Perry’s office asking him to reinstate Planned Parenthood, and says the response she got was disingenuous and unhelpful—echoing the statements the governor has already made publicly, downplaying the importance of Planned Parenthood’s participation in the WHP.
For now, LuQuis said other pressing health issues have halted her family’s search for reliable contraception—they simply can’t afford all the health care they need any more.
“I am bitter,” she said, “about the decision to de-fund Planned Parenthood, because without contraception the abortion rate will rise.”