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By W. Gardner Selby March 24, 2012

Democratic legislators say more than half of Texas births funded by Medicaid

In an op-ed column questioning the exclusion of Planned Parenthood clinics from a women’s contraception program, Austin members of the Texas House say the result would be more government-funded births.

"More than half of the births in Texas are paid for by Medicaid and, without this (women’s) program, that percentage will undoubtedly increase," says the column posted on the Austin American-Statesman’s website on March 5, 2012.

The Medicaid Women’s Health Program, which has a goal of reducing Medicaid-funded births, has not been eliminated, though its federal ties are in transition. Specifically, the Statesman op-ed article, by Democratic Reps. Elliott Naishtat, Dawnna Dukes, Eddie Rodriguez, Mark Strama and Donna Howard, objects to a move by the state’s Republican leaders to remove Planned Parenthood clinics as providers in the 5-year-old program, which has annually offered contraception and cancer screenings to tens of thousands of low-income women.

After the state action, the federal government announced that it was phasing out its aid to the Texas program. Gov. Rick Perry replied that state funds would be found to make up for the loss.

While none of the barred clinics provided abortions, state leaders said they were rightly enforcing a state law against state aid reaching any clinic with a connection to Planned Parenthood, which has other clinics that do provide abortions.

We can’t judge the Democrats’ prediction that more births will need to be paid for by Medicaid because of these turns. For this article, we wondered if indeed more than half of Texas births are currently covered by Medicaid, the government insurance program that mostly serves low-income mothers and children.

Naishtat’s legislative director, Nancy Walker, passed along a January 2011 Texas Health and Human Services Commission presentation, "Medicaid and Healthy Babies," stating that more than 55 percent of Texas births are paid for by Medicaid. "Medicaid is the primary public coverage program providing prenatal and perinatal care in Texas, and is the primary payor of all Texas births," the presentation says. "Texas spends over $2.2 billion per year in birth and delivery related services."

In 2001, Medicaid covered 47.5 percent of all Texas births, according to a chart in the presentation. The Medicaid-funded share of births escalated to 56.5 percent in 2006, 56.3 percent in 2007 and 55.4 percent in 2008.

By email, commission spokesman Geoffrey Wool confirmed the cited figures, adding that in 2010, 56.9 percent of Texas births -- or 220,899 out of 388,447 total births -- were covered by Medicaid, at an average cost of $11,600. He provided a commission chart showing the share of births funded by Medicaid for each state fiscal year from 2004 through 2010.

Wool said the state’s share of the $2.2 billion annually paid by Medicaid for Texas births and related services is about $900 million.

We rate the Democrats’ claim about Medicaid paying for more than half of Texas births as True.

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Our Sources

Texas Health and Human Services Commission, presentation and chart, "Medicaid and Healthy Babies," January 2011; "Medicaid Paid Births," Jan. 23, 2012

Emails (excerpted), responses to PolitiFact Texas, Geoffrey Wool, communications specialist, Texas Health and Human Services Commission, March 21 and 23, 2012

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Democratic legislators say more than half of Texas births funded by Medicaid

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