A lawsuit has been filed challenging a 2013 law that prevents medical care providers who've been convicted of any level of sexual offense
from participating in the Medicaid
program. The law passed without a vote in opposition in either house.
Seems simple, right? Nothing is simple.
Among those harmed by the new law is Dr. Lonnie Joseph Parker
, a name that should be familiar to long-time Arkansas Times
readers. Mara Leveritt wrote about his question-marked prosecution, including flawed credentials of a prosecutor, on several occasions. They are all available here.
He was convicted of possession of child pornography. He contends he was set up, but he was convicted and the conviction upheld on appeal. Mara notes that his record includes an honorable discharge from the Air Force and a decision, post-conviction and sentence, by the state Medical Board
to allow him to regain his license to practice medicine. He has established a practice in Hope, Ark., and most of his patients qualify for Medicaid, now off-limits to him under Act 1504, sponsored by Sen. David Sanders.
Parker has filed a federal lawsuit
in Little Rock arguing that the law serves no rational purpose. Plaintiffs include patients who are covered by Medicaid who are now deprived of his care (except for free). The lawsuit notes that Parker is classified as a Level One offender, the lowest possible. The suit says such offenders typically have no prior record and community safety is believed served by notice to law enforcement authorities.
The lawsuit argues that Parker has been deprived of a federal benefit without due process and that the law amounts to an unconstitutional ex post facto action 10 years after his conviction. He also argues the state law constitutes a violation of the "any willing provider" provision of the federal Medicaid law. He's asked a judge to enjoin enforcement of the act.
Here's the brief by Parker's attorney
, John Hardy, in support of his request for an injunction.
UPDATE: Sanders said his legislation was not prompted by a specific complaint — say by a competitor doctor — about Parker, but from what he described as a "routine" audit of Medicaid by Legislative Audit. You'll find the account of the finding on page 12.
I've asked whether the subject came up routinely or was specifically requested by anyone. The audit indicates that Parker was the only violator. He's been serving clients under Medicaid since 2006, without any record of complaint that I can find. Much was made of the fact that he'd received $489,000 in payments, but it's rarely noted that the payments amount to about $80,000 a year. Sanders insisted his interest was not in Parker, but in the broad policy of protecting children from potential interaction with offenders.
UPDATE: I'm still awaiting a response from Legislative Audit for working papers that indicate why it decided to look into Medicaid providers with sex offense records. But one public document shows that the division of Legislative Audit recommended the Department of Human Services address "the exclusion issue for this provider." Breck Hopkins, the DHS attorney, said there was no point in doing so and he also commented that he was "unable to discern any reason for the report to state how much the provider was paid over the years." The executive committee of the Legislative Joint Auditing Committee made a request for a special audit. Medicaid in general was targeted, but it seems clear that a legislators, or legislators, specifically targeted Parker as well and then crafted legislation that had one single target, Parker.