After Budget Cuts, TX Family Planning Program Serving 77 Percent Fewer Clients

Bill Day / Cagle CartoonsTwo years after conservative legislators in Texas cut state family planning funds by two-thirds, newly released data from the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) shows that state contractors are seeing 77 percent fewer family planning clients at an increased cost of 17 percent per client.

Republican lawmakers had hoped in 2011 that their family planning funding cuts would force Planned Parenthood to stop providing health care in the state; instead, the data shows that a wide variety of family planning clinics, not just Planned Parenthood locations, have shuttered and that low-income Texans have lost the already limited access to affordable reproductive health care they had just two and three years ago.

In 2010, providers in the state’s fully funded family planning program saw nearly 212,000 patients. In 2013, the providers that managed to stay afloat after the funding cuts saw a little over 47,000 patients. As the number of clients receiving low-cost cancer screenings and contraception has dramatically decreased, state-funded providers are spending more per client than ever, with the average cost per client increasing from $204.58 to $240.10 over the last three years.

At a DSHS council meeting Wednesday in Austin, commissioner Dr. David Lakey told council members that the decline in clients served was a direct result of the 2011 funding cuts.

“There’s been significant changes in the way that we’re addressing some of these issues following the last two legislative sessions,” said Lakey, who anticipates that a new funding stream created in the 2013 legislative session, which diverts family planning dollars to primary care providers, will serve 170,000 clients when fully implemented.

“We’re hoping that the [enrollment] numbers [will] increase because the infrastructure is now being rebuilt with that funding,” said Lakey. “It’s a different strategy now.”

Whether the new primary care model will be able to provide family planning services at the same level of capacity and cost-effectiveness as the pre-budget cut specialty providers remains to be seen, and because of the nature of pregnancy, birth data resulting from the funding cuts is not yet available. However, during the state family planning program’s peak enrollment periods in 2010 and 2011, DSHS reported the state’s lowest abortion rates in a decade, with preliminary data for 2012 showing a ten-year low of just 68,298 abortions, following two consecutive years in which more than 200,000 low-income Texans had access to affordable family planning.

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