Three big wins for women's health care in Texas, statewide advocacy coalition says

Legislators added millions in funding to the budget, passed two more bills

By Courtney Friedman - VJ, Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - The Texas Women's Healthcare Coalition, a program under Healthy Futures of Texas, is calling this legislative session a big success.

The coalition is made up of 84 health care, faith and community-based organizations that advocate for more women's services. Members from all over the state work together to educate legislators, testify in front of committees and push for stronger laws.

As the 86th legislative session closed, representatives are smiling for three big reasons.

"The biggest win, the way we see it, is the budget," said Evelyn Delgado, president of Healthy Futures of Texas and chair of the Texas Women's Healthcare Coalition.

This session, an extra $68 million was added to the general budget for women's health care over the next two years.

"Some of that money is to help offset some of the increased costs of providing family planning services and women's health services in general, but a good portion of that will go to serve more women," Delgado said.

That money will fund three state programs:

The Healthy Texas Women program focuses on health screenings and access to birth control.

New mothers who had Pregnant Women's Medicaid are automatically enrolled in Healthy Texas Women once they give birth, but many don't know that. That's why Delgado is praising a new bill that passed this session that will allow for a more effective way to tell women they've been enrolled.

"It may change the timing of the notice to be more effective. It will tell them what specific services they're eligible for, and it will provide them with the names of providers where they can go in their neighborhood," she said.

The organizations are also working to see if notifications can be sent digitally, opposed to or in addition to the current notices, which are printed and mailed.

"It's vital that she is able to receive more information in order to maintain a connection to the health care system," said Erika Ramirez, director of policy and advocacy of Healthy Futures Texas, as she testified in front of the State Committee on Health and Human Services.

Delgado and Ramirez said another big win came from a bill that directs the Health and Human Services Commission to develop a plan for treating postpartum depression.

"Women need resources and information on how to deal with that," Delgado said.

She said women also need to know it's normal to feel that way and it's OK to ask for help.

These bills still need the govornor's stamp of approval. Gov. Greg Abbott has until June 16 to veto any bills that have been passed.

There were several bills the Texas Women's Healthcare Coalition supported this session that were extremely close to passing but just missed the mark.

One of those bills would have provided 12 months of Medicaid postpartum health care coverage for women whose pregnancies were covered through Pregnant Women's Medicaid.

Another bill would have provided contraception coverage in the Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, which serves young women up to the age of 18. Texas is one of only two states in the country that does not allow contraceptive services to be provided to young women in this program.  

The last bill that almost passed would have automatically enrolled 19-year-old women who age out of Children's Medicaid or CHIP into the Healthy Texas Women program.  

Delgado said the coalition plans to continue pushing those bills for the next session, which starts in two years.

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