Planned Parenthood sues Louisiana over cut to Medicaid funds

AP News
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Posted: Aug 25, 2015 2:29 PM

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Planned Parenthood asked a federal judge Tuesday to stop Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration from ending Medicaid payments to the organization's Louisiana clinics.

Jindal, a Republican presidential candidate, announced plans earlier this month to cut off the Medicaid funding to the Baton Rouge and New Orleans health centers, citing hidden-camera videos that accuse the national organization of profiting from fetal tissue sales after abortions. Planned Parenthood denies the allegations, saying the videos are heavily edited and misleading.

In its lawsuit, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast says termination of its Medicaid provider agreements will limit health services for 5,200 low-income patients its clinics serve through the Medicaid program.

Planned Parenthood doesn't currently provide abortions in Louisiana, but offers cancer screenings, birth control, gynecology exams, sexually transmitted disease treatment and other health services.

Raegan Carter, with Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, described Jindal's decision as political grandstanding. She said the "illegal actions" taken against the organization's clinics in Louisiana "will put thousands of people's health at risk."

"Our state is dealing with some of the nation's worst health disparities and health outcomes, making the high-quality and affordable care that our health centers in Louisiana provide even more critical," she said.

Carter said the clinics were reimbursed nearly $730,000 during the organization's last budget year for services provided to Medicaid patients. The lawsuit says without the Medicaid revenue, the clinics may be forced to reduce staff and hours and the Baton Rouge clinic may shut down entirely.

Filed against Jindal's health secretary Kathy Kliebert, the lawsuit says the Jindal administration is violating federal law and unconstitutionally penalizing patients for their association with Planned Parenthood. Three female patients whose names aren't given also are listed as plaintiffs.

The Medicaid payments are set to end Sept. 2 unless Planned Parenthood gets the temporary restraining order and injunction it's seeking from U.S. District Judge John deGravelles.

Federal officials have warned states that blocking Medicaid funds to Planned Parenthood could violate the law. Federal courts have overturned previous attempts in Arizona and Indiana to disqualify Planned Parenthood from receiving Medicaid reimbursements.

Despite the federal warning, Jindal spokesman Mike Reed called the lawsuit "without merit."

"The state will aggressively defend our right to cancel the contract," he said in a written statement Tuesday. "The Medicaid provider contract between the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals and Planned Parenthood gives either party the right to cancel the contract at will with a 30-day notice. Gov. Jindal and DHH chose to exercise that right."

Alabama and Arkansas have taken similar actions since Jindal's announcement.