Earlier this week, as the state of Texas moved to kick Planned Parenthood out of the Medicaid program, Gov. Greg Abbott hinted there might be more to come.
“The inspector general says there are more examples of Medicaid fraud by Planned Parenthood,” Gov. Abbott said. “In fact, even the Department of Justice agreed with us on that issue – that what Planned Parenthood has done is that they have billed for services that were either medically unnecessary or not provided at all.”
Thursday, Texas health officials served subpoenas to Planned Parenthood facilities across the state. The move was unannounced and simultaneous. Investigators from the Inspector General’s office of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission arrived at the doors of Planned Parenthood centers in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Brownsville.
According to Planned Parenthood officials, state agents took photos, requested Medicaid records, billing information and employee records.
Ken Lambrecht, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas characterizes it as a fishing expedition.
“The request for documents includes unprecedented and unnecessary information, such as the home addresses of each and every one of our employees,”Lambrecht says.
“They say it is an ongoing investigation and so they can’t say anything,” Rosenthal says.
“In their letter, in which they informed Planned Parenthood that they were cutting them out of Medicaid, they cited some evidence of fraud and they were kind of vague about it,” he says. “But they did refer to a 2013 settlement regarding Medicaid fraud – so you could say that maybe they felt they already had the justification to kick them out of Medicaid, and now they are looking for more evidence of that.”
Rosenthal says Planned Parenthood’s attorneys are still trying to figure out how patient confidentiality plays into the request for information. He says the state included a 2003 letter from the Federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid along with their subpoena.
“That letter said that federal privacy laws do not apply for cases of health oversight activities authorized by the law,” Rosenthal says. “That’s the state’s argument. Planned Parenthood says they are not sure that’s the case and their attorneys are figuring out their response now.”
Rosenthal says Planned Parenthood’s deadline to turn over the records was at 10 a.m. Friday morning, but they’ve received an extension until next week.
“No decision has been made about a response,” he says. “They are still trying to figure that out.”