State health officials continue to insist that they have signed up more than enough providers to replace Planned Parenthood across most of Texas. Areas of limited coverage — including San Angelo, Corsicana and Paris — are being scoured to find health care providers willing to join the Women’s Health Project, they said.
In the meantime, the provider information that was pulled from the Health and Human Services Commission’s website is undergoing a belated check for accuracy to remove doctors and clinics that were mistakenly listed as participants in the Women’s Health Program or that provided only limited services, such as surgical contraception.
New information will not be posted online until a state contractor verifies that every listed health care provider is a participant in the Women’s Health Program — and state health agency employees double-check the revised list, said Stephanie Goodman, a spokeswoman for the state Health and Human Services Commission.
What went wrong?
Originally, the list was generated by the contractor, the Texas Medicaid and Healthcare Partnership, by using provider numbers for practices that had joined the health program, Goodman said. That shortcut, however, captured all locations of a provider group, even those that were not participating — including pediatric clinics, labs and surgeons.
“Obviously, on something this high-profile, that’s going to be this scrutinized, this is an area where we should have done a better job,” she said.
“Our mistake, honestly, was not calling on our own” to verify the contractor’s work, Goodman said. “On paper, picking up all those providers that could legitimately bill under the program made sense. We should have realized that pulling from billing records would make it difficult for women to use” the list.
Goodman said she expects the revised list to be published online this week.
That’s what you said last week, Stephanie. I guess one of these weeks you’ll be correct about that.
The mistakes were unfortunate, Goodman said, because they overshadowed a lot of hard work that has been done to launch the state program, particularly in signing up enough new providers to meet the need left by Planned Parenthood’s ouster.
“That’s one of the sad parts of this. I’d hate for women to see these stories and think, ‘There’s no help for me,’ ” she said. “There are clinics all over the state that said they have the ability to serve more women.”
The real mistake, of course, was believing that in Rick Perry’s Texas, where the 2011 Legislature slashed spending on family planning by two-thirds, there would be any incentive for this to be done right. Forget the scapegoating of the contractor, whose work was apparently never supervised or verified by anyone at the HHSC – we don’t need no stinkin’ project management! – and focus for a minute on the statement above on how “areas of limited coverage” – that is, places where only Planned Parenthood had done this kind of work before – are still “being scoured” to find providers more than three weeks after the state WHP was supposed to go live. No one could have seen this coming, because the Perry administration has such an admirable record of caring about women and children, especially poor women and children. If these women have received a message that there’s no help for them, there’s a good reason for it.