In a letter today to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Attorney General Ken Paxton urged prompt removal of an obstacle to federal funding for the state’s Healthy Texas Women program. The addition of some $30 million a year in federal dollars would increase access to family planning and preventative health services for low-income women across the state who are not covered by traditional Medicaid in Texas.

The Texas Medicaid Women’s Health program was cut off from Medicaid funding by the Obama administration in 2012 after the state Legislature enacted a law preventing taxpayer money from going to abortion providers. In his letter – sent at the request of Governor Greg Abbott and on behalf of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission – Attorney General Paxton pointed out that allowing states to exclude providers who perform or promote abortion is entirely consistent with federal policy.

“States have discretion in implementing the Medicaid Act, including in setting qualifications for providers,” Attorney General Paxton wrote. “Texas and the Healthy Texas Women program should not be penalized through the continued withholding of federal funds merely because Texas has exercised the authority that federal law has granted to it—namely, the authority to refuse to be a conduit for channeling taxpayer funds to abortion providers pursuant to state law.”

The state of Texas submitted a proposal for federal funding to HHS on June 28, 2017, hoping to receive funding starting this September, but has yet to receive a determination on its application. Texas spends $29 billion a year on Medicaid – more than one-fourth of the state’s annual budget – to serve approximately 4.3 million people. It allocates another $95 million annually to fund the Healthy Texas Women program, which has a current enrollment of 240,798 women.

Federal funding for the Healthy Texas Women program “will not only reduce the overall costs of publicly funded health care (including federally funded health care), but it will also implement both state and federal policy to favor childbirth and family planning services that do not include elective abortions or the promotion of elective abortions within the continuum of care,” Attorney General Paxton wrote. Ultimately, the program could pave the way for more states to provide better health care for women while simultaneously reducing costs.

View the letter here.