Planned Parenthood Could Lose Medicaid Funding in Texas. Is That Legal?

The state Health and Human Service Commission says defunding the organization won’t impact the healthcare of Texans who are on Medicaid.

By Rhonda FanningOctober 20, 2015 10:45 am, ,

Earlier this year, a three-person group calling itself the Center for Medical Progress started releasing surreptitious videos of Planned Parenthood officials from across the country – including Houston.

The center claims to have captured frank discussions by Planned Parenthood officials suggesting the organization was bartering fetal tissue for money. The images and interviews the group assembled created a political firestorm. The videos were heavily edited and, and CNN is now reporting, doctored with images that are potentially misleading.

The ensuing negative publicity, congressional hearings and threats to defund Planned Parenthood at the national level, appears to have directly led to a decision by Texas lawmakers to kick the organization out of the state Medicaid program.

Allison Winnike, director of research and professor at the Health Law & Policy Institute of the University of Houston Law Center, says that under federal law, states can’t ban organizations from Medicaid just because they perform abortions. Texas will have to show the organization committed fraud or prove some other form of criminality.

Winnike compares it to a lawsuit brought against an individual doctor, but says the case differs because it concerns an organization participating in a federal program.

“If there was a complaint against a particular physician, then that review of the physician would go through the Texas Medical Board process to determine whether they actually keep their license,” she says. “This is a separate issue whether an organization like Planned Parenthood is allowed to accept and treat Medicaid patients.”

Winnike says the state Health and Human Services Commission went to “great lengths” to say it won’t affect patients but Texas already has access-to-care issues.

“They put in a paragraph about how this will not negatively impact patients because there are other providers in the state of Texas,” she says. “[But] cutting the number of providers even further will clearly cause a problem for patients.”

Winnike says a current case in Louisiana against Planned Parenthood may serve as a boilerplate for litigation in Texas.

“Like in Lousiana they will probably cite the federal Medicare law saying that they are being terminated for reasons outside their ability to provide quality care,” she says.

Listen to the full interview in the audio player above.