The Austin Chronicle

Kicking Planned Parenthood Out of Medicaid Could be Illegal

By Mary Tuma, October 28, 2015, 8:30pm, Newsdesk

The federal government is stepping into the state’s decision to end Medicaid enrollment for Planned Parenthood clinics.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services warned Texas health officials on Tuesday that the move, which would prevent low-income women from accessing life-saving services, could put the state at odds with federal law, the Texas Tribune first reported.

"Longstanding Medicaid law prohibits states from restricting individuals with Medicaid coverage from receiving their care from any qualified provider," federal health representatives wrote in a statement. "Every year, millions of women benefit from critical preventive services, such as cancer screenings, that Planned Parenthood provides. State efforts to restrict women from using qualified providers puts these important health care services at risk.”

On Oct. 19, citing “evidence of Medicaid program violations” as well as “misconduct” based on highly discredited undercover videos released by an anti-abortion group, the Office of the Inspector General at the Health and Human Services Commission announced the state would cut Planned Parenthood from the program. A few days later, state officials doubled up efforts to go after the provider by raiding PP affiliate clinics to access thousands of documents, including patient records. Local Planned Parenthood representatives have continually denied any wrongdoing and call the termination – as well as the raid – politically motivated.

If rulings in other states are any indication, it seems likely that Texas will face a legal battle. Today, a federal judge ordered Alabama to reinstate the provider in the Medicaid program, after a similar attempt by its conservative governor, Robert Bentley. A federal judge also temporarily blocked the move in Louisiana last week. The judges considered the charges against the provider, mostly resting on the dubious video footage, baseless. In both cases, the federal government warned states that cutting off Medicaid could be considered illegal and in both cases Planned Parenthood filed suit.

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