Cuts to Women's Health Averted, but Eligibility Impacts Remain
By Erika Ramirez
On Tuesday, September 15, 2020 the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) released a revised budget reduction plan. The new plan scraps the cuts to all client services, including the women’s health care programs to meet budget reductions for the agency. A huge shout out to Texas Women’s Healthcare Coalition (TWHC) membership, our partners, and all organizations that vocalized the damage the proposed cuts would have. Also, a big thanks to the legislative members that opposed the cuts including, Senator Jane Nelson, Representative Donna Howard, Representative Sarah Davis, and members of the Women’s Health Caucus.
The five percent budget reduction call was issued back in May in a letter from the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Speaker of the House. The reduction target given to HHSC totals $132,716,696 in general revenue. On June 15, 2020, in response, HHSC issued its original reduction plan, proposing $15,194,052 in cuts to clients services, including approximately $3.7 million cuts to the women’s health programs – Healthy Texas Women (HTW) and the Family Planning Program.
In response to HHSC’s original plan, TWHC submitted a letter to legislators urging them to protect the women’s health programs budget. We coordinated with other organizations on messaging and letter submission. Texans Care for Children reported on the other organizations that submitted letters urging decision makers to stop cuts to critical programs that many Texans need. TWHC Chair, Evelyn Delgado, spoke out against the budget cuts in the Texas Tribune, San Antonio Express News, and Reform Austin among others.
The collaborative advocacy action and unification of our voices led to the withdrawal of cuts to vital health care programs for Texans. While this is a step in the right direction, and something to be celebrated, the revised budget reduction plan still proposes cuts to program administration, eligibility determination and enrollment services. Specifically, it calls for reduced or delayed hiring of 742 eligibility and enrollment staff positions. Cutting enrollment services will harm clients, quite possibly leading to delays in enrolling pregnant women, HTW applicants, and transferring new moms to HTW. As we all navigate the ongoing pandemic, budget cuts to vital agencies like HHSC, and the health programs it administers, is the last thing Texans need. Instead, the focus should be on revenue solutions. We will continue to work with Coalition members and partners to protect the budget and women’s health in Texas.