Without Planned Parenthood, What’s Left for Texas Women? Not Much.

Rewire Texas reporter Andrea Grimes searches, in vain, for a pap smear among the providers the state of Texas says should be available to provide one.

People in favor of a Texas-funded Women’s Health Program that excludes Planned Parenthood as a provider frequently claim that there are plenty of other places that Texas women enrolled in the WHP can get the same or better reproductive health care that they get at Planned Parenthood. The Department of Health and Human Services even provides a searchable database on their website. So I searched for WHP providers within thirty miles of the zip code 78702, which contains a busy Austin Planned Parenthood clinic that would not be able to see WHP patients if the new rules are adopted and enforced. That search returned 181 results. Does that mean it returned 181 gynecologists ready to see Medicaid patients? Not at all. It returned results like the Austin Endoscopy Center.

Operator: Uh, do you realize you’re calling the Austin Endoscopy Center?
Rewire: You guys are listed on their list of Medicaid Women’s Health Providers, so this is incorrect?

Operator: So you are wanting to schedule a screening colonoscopy?

Rewire: No, I’m trying to get a well-woman exam. Obviously I’ve called the wrong place.
Operator: Okay, we are an endoscopy center. [laughs] If you want a colonoscopy, call us back.

Rewire: Sure, thanks.

Operator: Bye-bye.

Nearly six hours of those kinds of conversations later, I found 13 clinics or doctors that take the Medicaid Women’s Health Program. Thirteen. Not 181. Why? Because 92 of the state’s listings are duplicates. Others are radiology associates and labs and pediatricians and even closed clinics. Others just plain don’t take Medicaid. At all. Here’s a sampling of what my afternoon sounded like.

Balcones OBGYN Operator: Balcones OBGYN?

Rewire: Hi, I was calling to find out if you guys take the Medicaid Women’s Health Program.

Balcones OBGYN Operator: No ma’am, we don’t.

Austin Radiological Association Operator: What kind of exam were you trying to schedule?

Rewire: A pap smear.

Austin Radiological Association Operator: Oh, we don’t do pap smears here.

Rewire: I was calling to find out if you guys take the Medicaid Women’s Health Program?
Martha Schmitz, MD Operator: We actually do not.

Rewire: You don’t take it. You guys are on their list of providers that they have.
Martha Schmitz, MD Operator: We do, but at this time we’re not accepting. We have too many to handle.

Austin Women’s Clinic Operator: Hello? How can I help you?

Rewire: I was calling to find out if you guys take the Medicaid Women’s Health Program?

Austin Women’s Clinic Operator: I’m sorry, we don’t take Women’s Health.

Rewire: Okay. You guys are listed as a provider on their website. Austin Women’s Clinic Operator: Yeah, I’ve been told we are and I don’t know why, but we really need to fix that. I really do apologize.

Rewire: Okay, thanks anyway.

Rewire: Do you guys take that [WHP]?

Harold D. Lewis Family Practice Operator: He actually does not, he is not contracted with that program.

Community Care in Manor, TX Operator: I don’t think we do. We don’t take the Title X or the Women’s Health.

Oakwood Surgery Center Operator: Well, we’re an ambulatory surgical center? So if you had to have surgery that was prescribed by the doctor, then that could be done here because we do accept Medicaid.

Rewire: But you don’t do pap smears or anything like that?

Oakwood Surgery Center Operator: No ma’am, we do not. That’s something you would want to address with an OB-GYN.

Of the 13 providers that could actually see a Medicaid Women’s Health Program patient, the thirteenth is a forty minute drive from East Austin. And that’s with no traffic. And if you live in Austin, you know there’s no such thing as no traffic. By public transportation it would take over two hours to get to that clinic. And that’s with a half mile walk at the end. Excluding Planned Parenthood from the Women’s Health Program absolutely reduces access to quality care. Full stop. Already, the state has demonstrated that the systems it says it has in place to support women without Planned Parenthood don’t work. Trying to get low-income, quality reproductive health care in Texas, in a major metropolitan area like Austin, without Planned Parenthood is like trying to get a pap smear at a colonoscopy clinic. And I know because I actually tried.