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Federal judge blocks Kan. from cutting Planned Parenthood's Medicaid contracts, funding

A federal judge on Tuesday ruled that Kansas may not cut Medicaid funding from Planned Parenthood, Reuters reports (Skinner, Reuters, 7/5).

Kansas defunds Planned Parenthood

In a letter sent on March 10, Kansas officials informed Planned Parenthood that per an order from Gov. Sam Brownback (R), the organization's Medicaid provider agreement would 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."

The letter cited misleading videos that an antiabortion-rights group released last year to target Planned Parenthood. A grand jury in Houston has since indicted two of the antiabortion-rights activists involved in making the videos.

In January, the Kansas State Board of Healing Arts investigated and found no evidence that a Planned Parenthood clinic in Overland, Kansas, had engaged in improper fetal tissue donation. Separately, 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.

Lawsuit details

In May, Planned Parenthood filed a federal lawsuit over Kansas' decision to terminate the organization's Medicaid provider agreement, contending that the defunding effort violates federal law and the U.S. Constitution. The lawsuit lists as plaintiffs one Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri (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 (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/16).

According to the AP/Sacramento Bee, Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri (PPSLR) also became involved in the lawsuit, because some Kansas patients travel to Missouri for care (Hanna, AP/Sacramento Bee, 7/5).

The lawsuit followed a letter that CMS in April sent to Medicaid agencies in every state warning them against terminating Medicaid contracts with abortion providers. Federal judges have blocked several state efforts to terminate abortion providers' Medicaid funding.

During arguments in the lawsuit, Diana Salgado, an attorney for Planned Parenthood, said the termination violates federal Medicaid law by impeding patients' ability to access care from a qualified provider. Salgado also said Kansas' action was a punitive response to the antiabortion-rights videos and allegations made against Planned Parenthood affiliates in other states.

In June, the state notified U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson that while it still plans to cut PPKM and PPSLR from participating in the state's Medicaid program, it will not seek to exclude the 11 plaintiffs who provide care at the clinics (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/16).

Ruling details

On Tuesday, Robinson issued a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, barring the state from canceling Planned Parenthood's provider agreements (Reuters, 7/5).

In the ruling, Robinson stated that beneficiaries have "the explicit right to seek family planning services from the qualified provider of their choice" (AP/Sacramento Bee, 7/5).

She continued, "It is uncontroverted that PPKM and PPSLR serve hundreds of underprivileged women in the State of Kansas ... It is in the public interest to allow these individuals to be treated by the qualified provider of their choice, and to have that provider reimbursed under Medicaid pending a trial on the merits in this case" (Reuters, 7/5).

Comments

Laura McQuade, CEO of PPKM, said, "We are thrilled with the judge's ruling. We felt strongly that we were going into this on the right side of the law" (Reuters, 7/5).

She added, "We promised to fight Governor Brownback's fool's errand in his attempt to cut funding to Planned Parenthood and today marks one more step forward in defending access for patients" (AP/Sacramento Bee, 7/5).