Planned Parenthood still gets Medicaid funds despite threats

AP News
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Posted: Mar 09, 2016 5:52 PM

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas hasn't cut off Medicaid reimbursements to Planned Parenthood even though Republican Gov. Sam Brownback declared two months ago that his administration would quickly end the funding, one of the organization's top officials said Wednesday.

Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri President Laura McQuade told The Associated Press that services are still being provided to Medicaid participants — and state reimbursements are being made — at five clinics in Kansas and the Kansas City, Missouri, area. She said her group expected to have been notified by now by state health officials that the clinics were no longer considered Medicaid providers.

"Whether or not it's legal, whether or not it's rational, whether or not it's constitutional, those aren't the guiding principles," she said. As for a two-month delay, she said: "That's not how it's played out in other states."

Brownback's spokeswoman said she was looking into the situation Wednesday.

Federal courts have recently blocked attempts to cut-off Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood in Arkansas, Louisiana and Utah. Similar attempts in Arizona and Indiana in 2011 and 2012 also were blocked by courts. Planned Parenthood's national organization said that since August, seven states have moved against the group's Medicaid funding.

Brownback, a vocal anti-abortion conservative, declared in his annual State of the State speech in early January that he was acting to ensure "not a single dollar of taxpayer money goes to Planned Parenthood" through Medicaid. The next day, he sent a letter to Susan Mosier, secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, directing her to terminate any provider affiliated with Planned Parenthood as a Medicaid participant.

The health department released a statement Wednesday saying it was "continuing to work through the proper procedure for terminating Planned Parenthood's Medicaid funding eligibility in accordance with the law."

Several anti-abortion legislators said they expected Brownback to cut off Medicaid funding this spring through executive action or a budget provision.

"I've been surprised that we haven't seen it yet," said Sen. Garrett Love, a Montezuma Republican and the leading sponsor last year of a first-in-the-nation law to ban a common second trimester abortion procedure. "I think Kansans want to see Planned Parenthood defunded."

Planned Parenthood provides services to Medicaid participants in Kansas at clinics in Wichita and Overland Park, as well as three clinics in the Kansas City, Missouri, area. The Overland Park clinic performs abortions, but McQuade said Medicaid funds only cover services such as health exams, family planning services, and breast and cervical cancer screenings and treatment.

A spokeswoman for the local Planned Parenthood affiliate, Bonyen Lee-Gilmore, said the organization wanted to ensure that its Medicaid patients knew they could still receive services at the clinics in Kansas.

Since taking office in 2011, Brownback has repeatedly signed annual budgets with a provision blocking Planned Parenthood from receiving federal funds for providing non-abortion, family planning services under another federal program, costing it about $370,000 a year. However, Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid Missouri continued to receive Medicaid reimbursements, about $61,000 in the fiscal year ending in June 2015, according to the organization.

Abortion opponents have touted their efforts to "defund" Planned Parenthood in Kansas, and in a Feb. 20 speech to a Republican breakfast hosted by the anti-abortion group Kansans for Life, Brownback said, "We'll finish the job this year."

Kansas has faced numerous federal and state lawsuits against abortion restrictions that have been enacted since Brownback took office. The attorney general's office said this week that it has paid outside attorneys nearly $1.4 million to defend the state in those cases since January 2011.

But the state also has prevailed multiple times, including in Planned Parenthood's lawsuit over a budget measures blocking it from receiving federal family planning dollars. A federal appeals court upheld the policy in 2014.

On Wednesday, McQuade accused Brownback of making Planned Parenthood's funding from Medicaid an issue to divert attention from the state's ongoing budget problems.

"You can never discount the fact that Planned Parenthood is a convenient target for Gov. Brownback," she said.

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