New App Tracks Impact of Texas’ Family Planning Budget Cuts

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New App Tracks Impact of Texas’ Family Planning Budget Cuts

Andrea Grimes

Texans can now track the impact of state lawmakers' cuts to family planning funds using a web and mobile app developed by university researchers.

Texans can now track the impact of state lawmakers’ cuts to family planning funds using a web and mobile app developed by the Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TXPEP), which used geo-spacial analysis and data from the Texas Department of Health Services to illustrate how reproductive health services have changed over the last two years, mapped across political districts, public health regions, and counties.

The TXPEP Family Planning Data Finder aggregates fiscal and demographic information so that users can see, either on a statewide or hyper-local level, how Texas’ 2011 family planning cuts and its dismantling of the Medicaid Women’s Health Program have affected the availability of reproductive health care, the amount of state budget savings, and the number of unplanned pregnancies in the state.

“There are some places where there was no detectable impact and other places that were completely hammered … where the services were almost eliminated,” Joseph Potter, professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin, told reporters in a press call. Potter is the principle investigator on the project, which launched as a response to Texas lawmakers’ decision to cut state family planning funds by two-thirds in 2011.

For example, in the far West Texas public health region that includes El Paso, the number of family planning clinics has increased, and more unplanned pregnancies were prevented in 2012 than in 2010. But in the Texas panhandle, half a dozen clinics closed, and just 388 unplanned pregnancies were estimated to have been prevented, down from over 3,000 in 2010. Despite El Paso’s good fortune, the app shows that the trend across the state reflects fewer Texans receiving a reduced number of services at a higher cost to patients, providers, and the state.

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“Rural counties were hit harder than more urban counties,” UT Austin graduate researcher Amanda Stevenson told reporters. “The cuts were worst where there was only one clinic, because now sometimes there are zero clinics.”

The app also tracks cost savings to the state, and dramatic decreases in savings are evident almost everywhere. An expected increase in Medicaid-funded births—as predicted by the unplanned pregnancy data in the TXPEP app—is also expected to raise costs for Texas taxpayers.

So the next time a Texas lawmaker wants to cut family planning funds in the name of fiscal conservatism? Ask him if he’s got a smartphone.