The Obama administration has warned state officials that pushing Planned Parenthood out of the state’s Medicaid program could put Texas at odds with federal law.
Officials with the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services contacted the state Medicaid director on Tuesday to give notice that removing Planned Parenthood from the program “may be in conflict with federal law” because poor women who obtain family planning services through Medicaid would be limited from receiving health care from the qualified provider of their choice.
“Longstanding Medicaid law prohibits states from restricting individuals with Medicaid coverage from receiving their care from any qualified provider,” a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services representative said 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.”
The feds’ intervention comes a week after Texas health officials announced they were working to boot Planned Parenthood from Medicaid, the joint state-federal insurer of the very poor and disabled. This would cut off taxpayer dollars to Planned Parenthood clinics that provide well-woman care, like cancer screenings, birth control and pregnancy tests. Planned Parenthood clinics that accept Medicaid dollars are already barred from performing abortions.
A spokesman for the Texas Office of Inspector General, which is handling the Planned Parenthood investigation, said state officials on Tuesday “had a very productive call” with the feds about the Medicaid announcement.
“Some concerns were voiced, and the state was able to responsively address them,” said OIG spokesman Chris Cutrone.
See here and here for some background. Hard to know what to make of this. Stuart Bowen recently dropped hints about a whistleblower being the basis of the state’s actions, which could be something or could be more smoke. At the same time this was happening, US Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell was taking a conciliatory tone about the state expanding Medicaid, which may have played into that “very productive call” or may be completely separate. I personally think the feds should continue to play on this, but I suppose someone has to be the good cop. Meanwhile, another state that has tried to follow the same path that Texas is taking lost in court, as a federal judge blocked efforts in Alabama to kick Planned Parenthood affiliates out of the state Medicaid program. Until the state puts its cards on the table, who can say what if any actual evidence they’ve got?
What you can say is this.
“Everyone is entitled to due process under the law. As a former judge, I recognize this is the first step in a lengthy process and will respect that process as it moves forward.”
—Gov. Greg Abbott
The quote is Abbott’s response to the criminal indictment accusing Attorney General Ken Paxton of having deceived investors, some of whom lost tens of thousands of dollars they risked because they trusted him. Abbott of all people should know about due process, having served as attorney general for 13 years in addition to having been a Texas Supreme Court justice.
But Abbott had no qualms about abandoning his ethical-lawyer respect for due process when it came to the current case the state has trumped up against Planned Parenthood. The state moved last week to end Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid funding based on the propagandic video snippets that have been making the rounds nationwide from anti-Planned Parenthood zealots purporting to show illegal deal-making for aborted fetal tissue.
Abbott declared Planned Parenthood guilty without benefit of an investigation, much less a trial. “The gruesome harvesting of baby body parts by Planned Parenthood will not be allowed in Texas and the barbaric practice must be brought to an end,” he said in a statement from his office issued under the headline “Texas eliminates taxpayer funding to Planned Parenthood providers.” See how the sentencing in this case appears to precede all else?
This foray against Planned Parenthood is a staged event to disrupt an organization whose Medicaid reimbursements primarily are for basic health services to low-income patients, including cancer screenings and testing for socially transmitted diseases. That is a wrong thing to interrupt just to make a political show of opposing abortion.
An objective review of the state’s actions and Abbott’s utterances against Planned Parenthood by a high-ranking law school would be interesting to see. We fear that Texas wouldn’t come off any better than the government of Iran. We wish that weren’t hyperbole.