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Planned Parenthood Asks Texas Officials To Delay Kicking It Out Of Medicaid During The Pandemic

A Planned Parenthood office in Austin with a mural of a woman holding a globe on the side of it.
Julia Reihs
/
KUT

Planned Parenthood officials in Texas are asking state leaders to give them more time before removing the organization entirely from the state's Medicaid program.

In a letter to health officials, Planned Parenthood asked to be allowed to continue serving people insured through the program for low-income people "in light of the COVID-19 public health crisis facing Texas."

“At minimum,” the group wrote, “it is imperative that [the Texas Health and Human Services Commission] permit a brief grace period so that Planned Parenthood providers can provide continuity of care throughout the holiday season and the current crisis point of the pandemic.”

The conservative Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last month that the state could kick the chain of family-planning clinics out of the program. Officials tried to remove Planned Parenthood in 2015, citing a highly edited video created by anti-abortion advocates that purported to show clinic officials selling fetal tissue. For years, however, a lower court ruling prevented the state from officially removing the organization.

Planned Parenthood officials say they have sent letters to Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton, as well as the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said the state’s decision could affect about 8,000 Medicaid recipients who already face barriers to getting health care. She said a grace period could help many Texans during this difficult time.

“We are in the middle of a public health crisis,” Johnson said. “It is the very least they could do.”

Dr. Bhavik Kumar, medical director for primary and trans care at Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, said making changes during a pandemic to a program that was created to serve vulnerable populations is particularly harmful.

“People need more access to health care during the pandemic, not less,” he said. “And blocking patients from their trusted providers at this extraordinary time would be unthinkably cruel.”

Paxton – who was indicted for securities fraud several years ago and is currently under investigation for alleged abuse of office – has said the state is within its rights to remove the program.

"Undercover video plainly showed Planned Parenthood admitting to morally bankrupt and unlawful conduct, including violations of federal law by manipulating the timing and methods of abortions to obtain fetal tissue for their own research,” he said in a statement last month. “Planned Parenthood is not a ‘qualified’ provider under the Medicaid Act, and it should not receive public funding through the Medicaid program.”

Jeffrey Hons, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood South Texas, said this latest decision is part of a long-term political agenda in Texas.

“For as long as I can remember in this job, politicians in the state of Texas have been trying to block Planned Parenthood from providing family-planning services to people,” he said.

In a statement Thursday, Planned Parenthood officials said the Abbott administration had "yet to respond to the letter, putting health care access for low-income Texans in jeopardy.”

Got a tip? Email Ashley Lopez at alopez@kut.org. Follow her on Twitter @AshLopezRadio.

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