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Planned Parenthood sues Kan. over decision to cut Medicaid contract

Planned Parenthood on Wednesday filed a federal lawsuit challenging Kansas' decision to cut the organization from the state's Medicaid program, Reuters reports (O'Brien, Reuters, 5/5).

Background

There are two Planned Parenthood facilities in Kansas, one of which provides abortion care. According to Elise Higgins, a lobbyist for Planned Parenthood Kansas and Mid-Missouri (PPKM), the clinics receive about $61,000 in Medicaid funding annually for providing cancer screenings, contraception services and health exams (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/14). PPKM provides care for about 450 to 500 Kansas Medicaid beneficiaries, according to the lawsuit (Hanna, AP/Sacramento Bee, 5/4).

Under a state budget provision approved annually since 2011, Planned Parenthood already is prohibited from receiving federal family planning funding through the Kansas health department.

Last year, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) asked the state medical board to investigate whether abortion providers in Kansas were selling fetal tissue (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/14). The request followed the release last summer of a series of misleading videos targeting Planned Parenthood's fetal tissue donation program (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/15).

PPKM does not have a fetal tissue donation program (AP/Sacramento Bee, 5/4). In January, the State Board of Healing Arts announced it would not take action against PPKM's clinic in Overland, Kansas, after the board investigated and found no evidence that the organization engaged in improper fetal tissue donation.

Also in January, Brownback ordered the state health secretary to block Planned Parenthood from receiving funding through Medicaid and urged state lawmakers to pass legislation that would make such a policy law (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/14).

Kansas defunds Planned Parenthood

In a letter sent on March 10, Kansas officials informed Planned Parenthood that per Brownback's order, the organization's Medicaid provider agreement will be terminated on May 10. The letter alleged several reasons for the contract termination, including failure to comply with provider agreements and state law and regulations, as well as unprofessional behavior and "other good cause."

Specifically, the letter cited the misleading videos last summer targeting the organization's affiliates in Houston (Dunn, Wichita Eagle/Sacramento Bee, 5/4). According to the AP/Sacramento Bee, a grand jury in Houston indicted two of the antiabortion-rights activists involved in making the videos.

The letter also referenced Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin's (R) allegations that Planned Parenthood affiliates in that state had billing errors. In addition, Kansas officials in the letter claimed that a Planned Parenthood clinic in Overland Park, citing patient privacy concerns, did not allow the state to complete an inspection of how the organization handled solid waste (AP/Sacramento Bee, 5/4). Officials in the letter acknowledged that attorneys for Planned Parenthood have denied this claim (Wichita Eagle/Sacramento Bee, 5/4).

According to the AP/Bee, Planned Parenthood's request to overturn the decision was rejected at an administrative hearing held last week (AP/Sacramento Bee, 5/4).

Lawsuit details

In the lawsuit filed on Wednesday, Planned Parenthood contends that Kansas' decision to defund the organization violates federal law as well as the U.S. Constitution. The lawsuit states, "This action challenges the unlawful, unwarranted and politically motivated decision" (Reuters, 5/5).

The lawsuit lists as plaintiffs one PPKM doctor, four PPKM nurses, and six former PPKM nurses and midwives who were cut from Medicaid, as well as three unnamed Kansas Medicaid beneficiaries (AP/Sacramento Bee, 5/4).

According to Reuters, the lawsuit follows a letter that CMS in April sent to Medicaid agencies in every state warning them against terminating Medicaid contracts with abortion providers (Reuters, 5/5). Federal judges have blocked several state efforts to terminate abortion providers' Medicaid funding (AP/Sacramento Bee, 5/4).

Comments

Laura McQuade, PPKM president and CEO, said, "This is an outrageous attempt by Governor Brownback to punish the women and men who have freely chosen Planned Parenthood for their health care for decades" (Wichita Eagle/Sacramento Bee, 5/4). Discussing the legal challenge, she added, "All of the grounds for the termination [of] Medicaid are entirely bogus and unfounded" (AP/Sacramento Bee, 5/4).

Separately, state Sen. Laura Kelly (D) called the state's move to defund Planned Parenthood an attack on women who access care at the organization, particularly low-income women. "By withdrawing these funds ... all you're doing is taking away primary healthcare for women," she said.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Kansas noted that states may not cut Medicaid funding from a provider solely because the provider offers abortion care. ACLU stated, "Medicaid recipients have the right to receive services from any Medicaid-eligible provider" (Wichita Eagle/Sacramento Bee, 5/4).