November 24, 2015 — Planned Parenthood on Monday filed a federal lawsuit against Texas officials in response to the state's efforts to cut the organization's Medicaid funding, the New York Times reports (Fernandez, New York Times, 11/23).
The Texas Office of Inspector General last month sent a "notice of termination" to Planned Parenthood, initiating the process of determining whether the organization should retain its status as a Medicaid provider in the state. In their notice to Planned Parenthood, state officials cited a series of misleading videos targeting the organization.
If the state terminates Planned Parenthood's Medicaid provider agreement, Planned Parenthood would lose about $3 million, most of which is federal funding that helps cover health care services for low-income patients (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/26). According to Planned Parenthood, the decision to terminate the provider agreement could take effect as soon as Dec. 8 (Herskovitz, Reuters, 11/23).
Meanwhile, courts have blocked similar efforts to cut federal funding for Planned Parenthood in other states, including Arkansas, Louisiana and Utah (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/26). In addition, federal health officials in October warned the state that its efforts to remove Planned Parenthood from its Medicaid program could violate federal law (Ura/Walters, Texas Tribune, 11/23).
In the lawsuit, Planned Parenthood argued that Texas' defunding effort violates Medicaid's "freedom of choice provision," under which beneficiaries can seek care from any qualified provider. The organization also said the state's defunding effort violates the 14th Amendment by subjecting the organization to "unfavorable treatment without adequate justification." Planned Parenthood also noted that if it is removed from Texas' Medicaid program, more than 13,000 patients each year would lose access to services such as contraception, cancer screening, HIV testing and other care.
While the state has claimed that Planned Parenthood patients could seek care from other providers, patients and Planned Parenthood officials have noted other providers in Texas already are flooded with patients, which can lead to months-long wait times for an appointment (New York Times, 11/23). Planned Parenthood also refuted the state's allegations about Planned Parenthood incorrectly handling fetal tissue and billing Medicaid, stating, "Each of these allegations is false" (Reuters, 11/23).
The organization is joined in the lawsuit by 10 patients (Texas Tribune, 11/23). According to Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, one of those patients is a rape survivor who sought care from Planned Parenthood after feeling uncomfortable in interactions with other providers (Reuters, 11/23).
Richards said, "By cancelling Planned Parenthood's Medicaid contract, these politicians are telling women where they can and cannot go for reproductive healthcare." She added, "And let's be clear: That is illegal and it's a violation of federal law" (Reuters, 11/23).
Hal Lawrence -- CEO of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, who joined Richards in the lawsuit announcement -- said, "Preventing health centers affiliated with Planned Parenthood from treating women in Texas or other states will without question keep women from getting those important preventive care and screening services" (New York Times, 11/23).