Planned Parenthood Heads to Court to Fight Cut from Medicaid Program

The healthcare provider says the state’s attempt to drop them from receiving Medicaid funding is unfair.

By Rhonda FanningJanuary 17, 2017 12:27 pm,

Tuesday Planned Parenthood heads to court for the first of three days of hearings to defend their right to stay in the Texas Medicaid program.

The state sent final notice in December that it would pull Medicaid funding from the system of women’s healthcare clinics around the state – something that could affect thousands of men and women. The drop from the program is slated for this Saturday. But Planned Parenthood filed a suit maintaining that the decision is unjustified and unfair.

Texas Tribune reporter Marissa Evans spoke to the Standard from the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, where the hearings are taking place. She says the trial is a big deal.

“For the last year or so Governor Greg Abbott has been trying to kick them out of the program, citing them as an abortion provider who’s broken rules,” Evans says.

The state says that Planned Parenthood is a fraudulent organization that hasn’t lived up to the services they need to provide to stay in the Medicaid program. Planned Parenthood is arguing that they’re being targeted because they provide abortions, despite the majority of their funding going to provide other services like well women’s health, preventative care, disease testing and other reproductive care.

“To lose Planned Parenthood, they are arguing, is a big deal,” Evans says. “Particularly in Texas, where in rural areas, in particular, you don’t have a lot of family planning.”

About 90 percent of Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid funding comes from the federal government. Planned Parenthood says this year they will serve about 13,000 Medicaid patients.

If the Medicaid cut is allowed to go through, Planned Parenthood would have to assess whether they need to start closing clinics or cutting back on services.

Texas is also claiming that the health care provider illegally sells fetal tissue, based on a heavily-edited video released by an anti-abortion group in July 2015. But the videos proved to be false.

“Planned Parenthood, they’ve basically said ‘We have debunked this. The media’s debunked this. Experts have debunked this. Why is this still happening,’” Evans says. “Last summer, when those videos came out, it was basically like such a happy day for Republicans everywhere, just because this was the type of material they were waiting for. They were looking to find a reason to get Planned Parenthood out of Medicaid here in Texas and those videos were a godsend.”

Other states have also tried to drop Planned Parenthood from receiving Medicaid Reimbursements, to no avail.

“In the past, when states have tried to kick Planned Parenthood out of Medicaid, it’s usually been a court has said ‘No, you can’t limit where women go to get their care,’” Evans says. “So as long as they’re not violating the terms of Medicaid … they should still be allowed to service clients and get that reimbursement.”

What will be interesting to watch in this case, Evans says, is whether or not the Texas judge will follow the same path or forge a new one in the reproductive rights fight in the state.

Written by Beth Cortez-Neavel.