Health & Science

Texas Is Seventh State Sued By Planned Parenthood Over Medicaid Dispute

Although Medicaid funding is rarely used for abortions, several Republican-led states have tried to prevent Planned Parenthood clinics from receiving Medicaid payments.


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Planned Parenthood affiliates in Houston, Dallas and San Antonio filed a lawsuit Monday to stop Texas health officials from removing them from the Medicaid program.

Medicaid is an important revenue stream for Planned Parenthood clinics in Texas, and that money, for the most part, has nothing to do with abortion. By law, Medicaid cannot pay for abortions except in cases of rape or incest, or if the mother's life is in danger.

At Planned Parenthood clinics, Medicaid pays for reproductive health services such as breast exams, pap smears, and contraception for more than 13,000 low-income Texas women a year.

"These political attacks have real consequences on people in the communities where we live," said Jeffrey Hons, the CEO of Planned Parenthood of South Texas in San Antonio.

Texas is the fifth state since this summer that has tried to terminate Planned Parenthood as an approved Medicaid provider.

Like their counterparts in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Utah, Texas health officials cited undercover videos made by an anti-abortion group. One of the videos was filmed at Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast in Houston.

Texas officials declined to comment on the new lawsuit.

Jennifer Sandman, an attorney for Planned Parenthood's national federation, said the videos have been deceptively edited, and the clinics have done nothing wrong. She said Texas is ignoring both federal law and previous court decisions.

"Federal law is very clear that there is a statutory right, as part of the federal Medicaid program, that says that patients that are insured through Medicaid have the right to choose their own provider, so long as that is a qualified provider," Sandman explained.

Texas officials disagree about Planned Parenthood's qualifications. In an Oct. 19 letter to the affiliates, Stuart Bowen, Jr., the state's Inspector General for Health and Human Services, wrote the clinics "are no longer capable of performing medical services in a professionally competent, safe, legal and ethical manner."

In addition to the undercover videos, Bowen mentioned two lawsuits related to billing practices at the Gulf Coast affiliate.

In the past few months, federal judges have sided with Planned Parenthood affiliates in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Utah, issuing temporary injunctions to allow them to continue as Medicaid providers.

A few years ago, before the controversial videos, Indiana and Arizona also tried to kick Planned Parenthood off Medicaid. They were permanently stopped by federal appellate court judges.

But Texas is the largest state to fight this battle, and Republicans here know they will be watched, said Helene Krasnoff, another Planned Parenthood federation attorney.

"There's no question that Texas is both ground zero and a cautionary tale for the rest of country, in terms of what happens when politicians advance this sort of agenda," Krasnoff said.

The Texas affiliates could lose Medicaid funding as soon as Dec. 8. They are asking a federal district judge in Austin to issue a temporary ruling before then.

In 2014, the three Texas affiliates received about $4 million from the Medicaid program.


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