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Planned Parenthood Could Lose Medicaid Funding in Texas. Is That Legal?

Image via Sarah Montgomery/KUT
Planned Parenthood volunteers and supporters rally outside the Texas capitol in March 2015.

FromTexas Standard:

Earlier this year, a three-person group calling itself the Center for Medical Progressstarted releasing surreptitious videos of Planned Parenthood officials from across the country – including Houston.

The center claims to have captured frank discussions by Planned Parenthood officials suggesting the organization was bartering fetal tissue for money. The images and interviews the group assembled created a political firestorm. The videos were heavily edited and, CNN is now reporting, doctored with images that are potentially misleading.

The ensuing negative publicity, congressional hearings and threats to defund Planned Parenthood at the national level, appears to have directly led to a decision by Texas lawmakers to kick the organization out of the state Medicaid program.

Allison Winnike, director of research and professor at the Health Law & Policy Institute of the University of Houston Law Center, says that under federal law, states can't ban organizations from Medicaid just because they perform abortions. Texas will have to show the organization committed fraud or prove some other form of criminality.

Winnike compares it to a lawsuit brought against an individual doctor, but says the case differs because it concerns an organization participating in a federal program.

"If there was a complaint against a particular physician, then that review of the physician would go through the Texas Medical Board process to determine whether they actually keep their license," she says. "This is a separate issue, whether an organization like Planned Parenthood is allowed to accept and treat Medicaid patients."

Winnike says the state Health and Human Services Commission went to "great lengths" to say it won't affect patients, but Texas already has access-to-care issues.

"They put in a paragraph about how this will not negatively impact patients because there are other providers in the state of Texas," she says. "[But] cutting the number of providers even further will clearly cause a problem for patients."

Winnike says a current case in Louisianaagainst Planned Parenthood may serve as a boilerplate for litigation in Texas.

"Like in Louisiana, they will probably cite the federal Medicare law saying that they are being terminated for reasons outside their ability to provide quality care," she says.

Listen to the full interview in the audio player above.

Rhonda joined KUT in late 2013 as producer for the station's new daily news program, Texas Standard. Rhonda will forever be known as the answer to the trivia question, “Who was the first full-time hire for The Texas Standard?” She’s an Iowa native who got her start in public radio at WFSU in Tallahassee, while getting her Master's Degree in Library Science at Florida State University. Prior to joining KUT and The Texas Standard, Rhonda was a producer for Wisconsin Public Radio.
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