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Texas issues final notice to cut Planned Parenthood from state Medicaid program

Texas on Tuesday issued a final notice that it will terminate Planned Parenthood's enrollment in the state's Medicaid program, the New York Times reports.

Unless the decision is blocked or reversed, it will take effect in 30 days (Mele, New York Times, 12/20).

Background

The Texas Office of Inspector General in October 2015 sent a "notice of termination" to Planned Parenthood, initiating the process of determining whether the organization should retain its status as a Medicaid provider in the state. In their notice to Planned Parenthood, state officials cited deceptively edited videos targeting the organization (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/15/15). Investigations by 13 states have cleared Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing (Weber, AP/Sacramento Bee, 12/20).

In November 2015, Planned Parenthood filed a federal lawsuit against Texas officials in response to the defunding effort. The organization was joined in the lawsuit by 10 patients. In the lawsuit, Planned Parenthood argued that Texas' defunding effort violates Medicaid's "freedom of choice provision," under which beneficiaries can seek care from any qualified provider. Planned Parenthood also said the state's defunding effort violates the 14th Amendment by subjecting the organization to "unfavorable treatment without adequate justification" (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/15/15).

According to the Times, the lawsuit has "lingered" in court pending a final notice by state officials (New York Times, 12/20).

Judges have blocked similar efforts in Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana and Mississippi (Ura, Texas Tribune/Washington Post, 12/20). Separately, the Obama administration earlier this year issued a nationwide notice cautioning that state efforts to cut abortion providers out of Medicaid could violate federal law (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/28).

State issues final notice of termination

In the final notice of termination, Texas Health and Human Services Inspector General Stuart Bowen cited the misleading videos as "the basis for [Planned Parenthood's] termination" from the Medicaid program (AP/Sacramento Bee, 12/20).

The final termination letter did not include allegations of billing fraud against Planned Parenthood that state health officials had made against the organization in earlier correspondence (Texas Tribune/Washington Post, 12/20).

If the decision takes effect, Planned Parenthood would lose about $4 million in annual Medicaid funding, according to the Times (New York Times, 12/20). According to the organization, Planned Parenthood provides care for about 11,000 women in the state each year (AP/Sacramento Bee, 12/20).

Planned Parenthood's response

Planned Parenthood officials on Tuesday said they would seek an injunction against the termination decision as requested in the ongoing lawsuit. In addition, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood said the organization is determining whether to pursue an administrative appeal as well. The appeal would have to be filed within 15 days.

In the meantime, Planned Parenthood officials said the organization will continue to provide cancer screenings, contraception, HIV testing and other services to Texas Medicaid beneficiaries (New York Times, 12/20).

Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, said, "Texas is a cautionary tale for the rest of the nation. With this action, the state is doubling down on reckless policies that have been absolutely devastating for women" (AP/Sacramento Bee, 12/20).

She continued, "Already, tens of thousands of people have nowhere to turn for birth control, cancer screenings, HIV tests, and other care. If the nation goes the way of Texas, it will be nothing less than a national health care disaster. We will never back down and we will never stop fighting to ensure that Planned Parenthood patients have access to the care they need" (Hellmann, The Hill, 12/20).