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Errors in Texas database pose barriers to health care access

By American Independent
Thursday, November 1, 2012 12:28 EDT
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Texas health commissioner Kyle Janek said Wednesday that errors in a state-crafted database intended to help women find reproductive health care providers are “a real problem.”

As the state attempts to implement a rule barring Planned Parenthood clinics from participating in the government-funded Women’s Health Program, the health commission has directed low-income women­ to use its online database to search for a new provider.

Nearly half of the women served by the program currently rely on Planned Parenthood. The commission says that more than 3,000 providers are available to serve these women, but many experts are skeptical that these facilities will be able to accommodate the women displaced by the new rule.

The database has garnered complaints from health care providers and patients for producing what they see as inflated and “misleading” search results. It includes a number of duplicate entries, facilities that do not provide reproductive health services (such as children’s clinics), and listings for clinics that are unable to see new program clients.

When confronted about the issue by The American Independent at an event hosted by The Texas Tribune, Janek insisted that the “3,000 providers” figure was accurate and that the error-prone database is “a separate list.”

“When we say that we’ve got 3,000 providers out there ready to participate in this program, there’s no duplicates,” he said.

Still, Janek admitted the inaccurate database is “a real problem.”

“Some of them may be laboratories. Well, that’s all very well and good, and we’re glad they’re going to be participants in the Texas Women’s Health Program, but they’re not providers. A laboratory is not a provider,” said Janek

A study by George Washington University’s School of Public Health and Health Services found the state’s estimates of the impact of the rule to exclude Planned Parenthood appear to “contain numerous methodological flaws” and cautioned that the projections “may overstate remaining provider capacity in communities” where program participants live. The study added that the state might be counting reference laboratories “as sources of direct patient care.”

As detailed by TAI, the database also includes multiple listings of the same providers, lending the appearance of more options than actually available. On Wednesday, Janek addressed this concern as well.

“You’ll have, for example, Kyle Janek, M.D., and then somewhere else on the list will be Kyle L. Janek, M.D. Well, that may be a duplicate of the one person, and that shouldn’t count,” he said. “We are not counting those duplicates in that count of 3,000.”

Janek said he was only recently made aware of the issue and underwent a “lengthy conversation” with commission officials this week about the problems related to the database. The commission needs to more closely vet the entries and remove duplicates, he said.

The website RH Reality Check documented some of the problems with the database in May.

Despite the database problems and questions of provider capacity, the commissioner reassured the audience he is “confident” the Texas Women’s Health Program will be ready for implementation by Nov. 1 if needed.

Yet, shortly after Janek gave this assurance, the commission announced that it would continue accepting federal funds for the time being, allowing Planned Parenthood to remain in the program for now.

Last week, a state judge issued a temporary restraining order barring Texas from excluding Planned Parenthood as long as the state continued accepting federal funds. A court hearing set for Nov. 8 may provide more clarity about the legal controversy surrounding the rule.

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