The Texas House Higher Education Committee approved a bill last week that would change the way colleges promote women’s health programs.
State Rep. Evelina Ortega, D-El Paso, authored House Bill 60, which amends the Education Code to require institutions of higher education — including public universities, trade schools and technical colleges — to share information more directly on their women’s health programs, the eligibility for those programs and the enrollment procedures.
“The uninsured rate among college students in Texas is just over 18 percent,” Ortega said in an email. “In order to increase enrollment, it is important to implement new and interesting ways to inform Texans of the programs they are eligible for and how to apply.”
Healthy Texas Women, the state’s program that allows low-income women to receive reproductive health and family planning services as an alternative to Planned Parenthood, served more than 275,000 women in December, according to a service report updated in December 2018. This was 32,000 more than the same time for the previous year.
Women make up nearly 53 percent of UT’s student population, according to a demographic report published last semester. The 2017 national Kaiser Women’s Health Survey found that many women do not have proper information on insurance coverage. Twenty-six percent of women on Medicaid were uninformed that their insurance would not cover a service they believed was covered and 33 percent of women on Medicaid had to pay expensive co-pays on prescription medication, according to the survey.
“UHS doesn’t have a policy about sending student information on women’s health programs,” senior program coordinator at University Health Services said. “Our eligibility and insurance information is all on our website and are promoted in all outreach.”
If HB 60 becomes law, UHS will also be required to send an email notification of the women’s health programs the Health and Human Services Department provides through UHS, as well as eligibility and insurance information to all enrolled students during the fall semester of the academic year. The bill would become effective for the 2019-2020 academic year.
Biology junior Angela Kang said even the changes made by HB 60 might not be enough to keep students in the know about what is available to them or if they qualify for the services.
“Students receive a lot of emails about campus,” Kang said. “A yearly email isn’t sufficient.”
However, Kang said more student outreach is something that UHS, promotional initiatives like Healthyhorns and student organizations could achieve through orientation presentations or health fairs.
“I do like the health promotion efforts of student orgs and Healthyhorns,” Kang said. “Health is an integral part of students’ lives and should be promoted on a widespread level.”