Texas’ Health & Human Services Commission announced Monday that it will terminate the Medicaid contracts for all Planned Parenthood clinics in the state. The move, which will definitely be challenged in court, would cut off thousands of poor women from preventive care like Well Woman exams, HIV tests and birth control.
The HHSC sent a letter to a Texas Planned Parenthood affiliate today, announcing it would end the non-profit’s Medicaid contracts on the basis of purported “serious Medicaid program violations.” The letter added, “The State has determined that you and your Planned Parenthood affiliates are no longer capable of performing medical services in a professionally competent, safe, legal, and ethical manner.”
Planned Parenthood has 30 days to challenge its termination from the program. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office is purportedly still “investigating” the sting videos released by the Center for Medical Progress, but evidently there was no need to complete that before the state cut PP’s funding.
Governor Greg Abbott began his victory lap immediately, issuing a press release celebrating his own moral courage in the third person:
“Texas has stepped forward and shown its unyielding commitment to both protecting life and providing women’s health services,” said Governor Abbott. “The gruesome harvesting of baby body parts by Planned Parenthood will not be allowed in Texas and the barbaric practice must be brought to an end. As such, ending the Medicaid participation of Planned Parenthood affiliates in the State of Texas is another step in providing greater access to safe healthcare for women while protecting our most vulnerable – the unborn.”
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The issue here is that Medicaid money comes largely from the federal government; as the Texas Tribune points out, Texas put just $310,000 towards Planned Parenthood in 2015, but dispersed $2.8 million of federal money. And it’s not free money: it’s reimbursement for services rendered to Medicaid patients. Those services cannot, under federal law, include abortion, except in the cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment. (There are fifteen states that will allow Medicaid to cover abortions in other circumstances. Texas is, as you might guess, not one of them.)
In other words, Texas is attempting to take away money that mostly isn’t theirs. Also, Medicaid rules explicitly give the patient their choice of provider; cutting PP out of the program because they provide abortions or allow fetal tissue donations is illegal.
Louisiana is currently attempting to do the same thing, a move the PP affiliates there have challenged in court. On Monday, a federal judge ruled that Louisiana must continue providing Medicaid reimbursements to Planned Parenthood for the next 14 days while the case is being considered.
Planned Parenthood Action Fund Vice President Dawn Laguens sent out a press release calling Texas’ move “completely outrageous” and saying it’s based on “a smear campaign.” She added: “We will fight back against this outrageous, malicious, political attack in Texas with everything we’ve got, and we will protect women’s access to the health care they need and deserve.”
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Texas Governor Greg Abbott, pictured on June 3, 2015. Photo via AP Images.