A group of muckraking East Dallas women say the state’s Healthy Texas Women website is loaded with providers who’ve never had a hand in the program, making it difficult for women to find their way to the physicians who do.
The group, called “East Dallas Persistent Women,” put out a study today that shows 66 percent of providers listed on HTW’s site aren’t actually providers of the program. That’s based on a statistically representative survey of 54 counties in Texas.
For the study, a dozen volunteers made nearly 1,500 calls over two months, asking the listed providers whether they accepted patients of the Healthy Texas Women program, what services they provided, and when they could schedule an appointment.
In Dallas County, the numbers are even more bleak than the state totals: about 82 percent of the providers don’t provide care through HTW, the group found.
There’s a secondary issue with repetition. Of the 1,043 in Dallas County, only 505 were unique names, EDPW says.
The state of Texas rolled out Healthy Texas Women as its version 2.0 of a Planned Parenthood-less approach to providing women’s health services. Under the program, which was a combination of two previous state programs, women aged 18 to 44 who meet certain income requirements are eligible.
The state-run programs stem from major cuts to Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers that landed in 2011, establishing Texas’s prominence in the ongoing debate on reproductive rights.
The East Dallas group says the state has represented its own programs as replacements for Planned Parenthood, flaunting the power of its expansive network.
A previous study by the non-profit NARAL Pro-Choice America found provider gaps under the Texas Women’s Health Program, which preceded Healthy Texas Women. EDPW figured the state would slap away the validity of NARAL’s study by claiming the new program, Healthy Texas Women, didn’t possess the same issues. So the group, a network of women who mainly know each other through church, set out to shine light on similar issues with HTW.
Among its findings, EDPW says it found providers listed under HTW that do not fall remotely into the correct categories to provide acceptable care. From the study:
In addition to duplicate names, numbers listed led us to an anesthesiology group, an orthopedic surgeon group, a dermatologist, an oncologist, a radiology department, a mental health specialist, a surgeon, a cancer institute, an ophthalmologist, pediatricians, a city employee clinic, several ER/urgent care doctors, and the private line of someone named Louis. Some were no longer taking new patients. One said they used to take HTW patients but the state is not giving them money anymore. Sometimes we stayed on hold for up to 15 minutes and never got through. One person hung up on us when we asked about HTW. Sometimes we tried and never even got to a person to put us on hold.
I reached out to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission for comment this afternoon, and have yet to hear back. (I’ll update this post if and when I do. Update below)
Dawn McMullan, a member of EDPW and freelance journalist, says that it “certainly seems like they’re trying to be misleading.”
“But even if they aren’t, it’s incredibly misleading if you’re a woman trying to get care,” she says.
Update: A Texas HHSC spokesperson emailed me this statement: “Our top priority is giving women the opportunity to get services in their own communities. We semi-annually verify that each provider listed offers HTW services, and if there are inaccuracies on our list, we’d want to know about those and fix them quickly. Nothing is more important to us than making sure women have access to this care.”