Realignment of Texas cancer screening funds attacks both women and hospitals

Although the United States has seen a rise of women political figures such as Hillary Clinton and Loretta Lynch, it remains a remarkably difficult place for women in many walks of life.

For every one of Sheryl Sandberg's exhortations to "lean in," there's someone like former American Apparel CEO Dov Charney, for whom the term in relation to females is completely different. 

But does an entire state have to dismantle a large swath of its preventive cancer care services for women? Because that is exactly what Texas is doing right now.

Apparently the Texas political leadership has decided that Planned Parenthood is as welcome within its borders as Pancho Villa was a century ago. I won't get into the sociodemographic motivations--you know what they are. And, according to Kaiser Health News and the Texas Tribune, they actually don't even apply in this case.

However, in the scorched earth campaign of funding cuts waged by the Texas Legislature in order to drive Planned Parenthood out, it is women who become the victims.

The Legislature has proposed that county and state-run facilities that provide cancer screening services get first crack at state funds that make screening services accessible to low-income women, according to the KHN andTribune piece. Privately-operated organizations that provide such services would have to stand at the back of the line for this money. That includes Planned Parenthood--and nearly three dozen other private providers in Texas that provide mammograms and other preventive screening services.

"There's not going to be anything left by the time it gets to us," Carol Belver, executive director of Community Action Inc. of Central Texas, told the Tribune and KHN.  Her clinics screened more than 600 women last year. Multiply that by 34, and the ripple effects of such policymaking are downright sobering. The city of Amarillo--with 200,000 inhabitants and a 37 percent poverty rate--may wind up without a single source of screening for poor women.

Let's not forget that Texas has already refused to expand the Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act, and likely will do nothing to help its residents who purchase insurance through the Healthcare.gov insurance exchange if the Supreme Court rules against tax subsidies for coverage in the King v. Burwell case. Did I mention that nearly a quarter of the Lone Star State's residents are uninsured to begin with? 

And cancer is already the single most expensive malady for many hospitals to treat. I can only imagine how the state's hospital operators look forward to treating a bunch of uninsured stage 3 and stage 4 cancer patients who might have been diagnosed far earlier if the state's healthcare policies did not tilt toward mean-spiritedness.

But in Texas, the fight for the sanctity of life apparently means some lives may have to be sacrificed. It's an approach that needs to be messed with--and I hope its hospitals are at the forefront of that battle. - Ron (@FierceHealth)

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