Women's Health

Feds Tell Texas It Might Not Be Able to Kick Planned Parenthood Out of Medicaid

Texas has not, as it turns out, completely ended taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, it might not be able to, either.

Last week, Texas Governor Greg Abbott hopped on his Twitter account to crow about his belief that Texas health officials had stopped Texas Planned Parenthoods from getting any Medicaid dollars. Planned Parenthood is already banned from receiving any kind of state money. That hasn't exactly happened. Abbott's referencing a letter sent by the Texas Office of Inspector General to Planned Parenthood, in which the OIG tells the organization that it is in the process of cutting Planned Parenthood off from federal money it is eligible for as a provider of well-woman care. (There's a potential unintended consequence here that bears mentioning. Any Planned Parenthood that takes Medicaid money is not allowed to provide abortion services. Essentially, Abbott is celebrating something that might lead to more Planned Parenthoods being eligible to perform abortions.) No cutoff has actually happened yet.

The reasons Planned Parenthood is set to be cut off, according to the OIG, are the alleged misdeeds with regard to fetal tissue donation that aren't documented in the undercover videos filmed at Planned Parenthood by the Center for Medical Progress. The OIG says Planned Parenthood violated federal law by altering the methods in which abortion was provided in order to preserve fetal tissue that ended up being donated, something Planned Parenthood disputes.

This week, the feds informed Texas that it probably shouldn't try to stop Planned Parenthood from getting Medicaid money because denying people equal access to healthcare might be illegal.

“Longstanding Medicaid law prohibits states from restricting individuals with Medicaid coverage from receiving their care from any qualified provider,” Marissa Padilla, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement issued Wednesday. “Every year, millions of women benefit from critical preventive services, such as cancer screenings, that Planned Parenthood provides. State efforts to restrict women from using qualified providers puts these important health care services at risk."

Planned Parenthood has about three weeks left to respond to the OIG's letter and request an administrative hearing. The organization faces a similar deadline to fulfill the OIG's demand — made last week during an early-morning raid — for thousands of pages of documents including employees' home addresses and patient medical records.
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young