It would all be funny if it weren't so patently ridiculous.
State lawmakers don't have a problem with the fact that they blocked thousands of poor Texas women from getting basic health care, but they are decidedly unhappy about Texas being tied in any way to a study that showed what actually happened when Planned Parenthood was booted out of the state's Women's Health Program in 2013.
Texas officials have been looking for ways to cut off every cent of state or federal money that goes to the women's health-care provider for years now, so it wasn't a shock when they eagerly excluded Planned Parenthood from the state's women's health program, a widely successful Medicaid waiver program that provided basic health care like birth control, STD testing and cancer screenings to poor and uninsured women in the state. The feds, who spent $9 for every $1 Texas threw in, said the move violated Medicaid law, but Texas officials didn't even blink. They ultimately gave up nearly $40 million in annual funding just to make sure that the Planned Parenthood family planning clinics didn't see any of that money, even though the clinics don't even offer abortions.
A study published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine last month found that when the state excluded Planned Parenthood from the women's health program, shockingly, there was an increase in births among Medicaid recipients who would have used injectable contraception received through a Planned Parenthood clinic, as we've previously noted.
Specifically, the researchers looked at administrative data compiled from state fee-for-service family-planning insurance programs, Medicaid, the Texas Department of State Health Services and Planned Parenthood. Going over the numbers, they found that there was about a 35 percent drop in the claims for long-acting, reversible contraceptives (like IUDs) and a decrease of about 31 percent in the claims for injectable contraceptives. At the same time, births paid for by Medicaid in these same areas shot up about 27 percent.
You might have assumed that Texas lawmakers would look at the study, titled "Effect of Removal of Planned Parenthood from the Texas Women’s Health Program," and simply acknowledge the incredibly predictable results of their own efforts and move on. But since this is Texas, of course that's not how state officials dealt with the findings.
As soon as the study was released, Republican state Senator Jane Nelson, of Flower Mound, took issue with its conclusions. At that point, the study featured two state researchers among its listed co-authors, one of them being Rick Allgeyer, the director of research at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. However, Allgeyer didn't hang onto his title for long.
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Shortly after Nelson – who led the charge to oust Planned Parenthood from the program in the first place – started complaining about the study, he resigned his position.
Meanwhile, the Texas Tribune reports that Chris Traylor, head of the state health commission, sent Nelson a reassuring note on the matter. He wrote that the study was “broad and not sustainable” because it didn't include all of the women's health services offered by the state.
But state lawmakers weren't content to let the whole matter end there. Nope, this week the health commission's chief counsel, Karen Ray, sent a letter to the journal asking that it wipe out any “suggestion of affiliation” between the state agency and the study since the study “does not reflect the view of the Commission.”
The journal, which has been publishing medical research since 1812, responded by posting a note on the study stating that the views therein are not, in fact, those of the state health commission. More impressively, there's not a single House Bill 2 joke or even a hint of well-duh-of-course-Texas-doesn't-support-this-study ironic subtext in said note.