Friday, August 14, 2015

Gov. Asa Hutchinson orders DHS to terminate Medicaid contract with Planned Parenthood, in defiance of federal law

Posted By on Fri, Aug 14, 2015 at 3:49 PM

click to enlarge SPOILING FOR A FIGHT: Gov. Asa Hutchinson says Arkansas will end Medicaid contracts with Planned Parenthood, in defiance of federal regulation. - BRIAN CHILSON
  • BRIAN CHILSON
  • SPOILING FOR A FIGHT: Gov. Asa Hutchinson says Arkansas will end Medicaid contracts with Planned Parenthood, in defiance of federal regulation.

UPDATE: Gov. Asa Hutchinson
 has directed the Department of Human Services to terminate Medicaid contracts with Planned Parenthood. "Termination will be effective 30 days from the date of the letter attached," Hutchinson said in statement. The feds have recently told two other states that this maneuver violates federal law. 

Hutchinson released the following statement:

It is apparent that after the recent revelations on the actions of Planned Parenthood, that this organization does not represent the values of the people of our state and Arkansas is better served by terminating any and all existing contracts with them. This includes their affiliated organization, Planned Parenthood of Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma.

I appreciate the legislature’s leadership on this important issue, especially that of Senator Eddie Joe Williams and Representative David Meeks.

Here  the letter that DHS sent, on the governor's order, to Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, terminating their Medicaid contract, effective 30 days from today. 

Here's guidance from the federal Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) on this topic. Crystal clear:

Medicaid programs may not exclude qualified health care providers—whether an individual provider, a physician group, an outpatient clinic, or a hospital—from providing services under the program because they separately provide abortion services (not funded by federal Medicaid dollars, consistent with the federal prohibition) as part of their scope of practice. 

DHS says otherwise. Statement from spokesperson DHS Amy Webb: 

Based on the legal guidance from our counsel and a review of the contract, which allows either party to terminate for any reason with 30 days notice, we believe that we can terminate the provider agreement.

Here come the lawsuits.  

UPDATES:

* More from the governor, apparently spoiling for a fight with the feds, here. The governor's office says that although they "anticipate a federal review, standing up for Arkansas values is most important to the Governor."  

* And Planned Parenthood responds: "This political grandstanding could have real and devastating consequences for women who rely on Planned Parenthood for birth control, cancer screenings, STD tests and other lifesaving care." Full response here

* Statement from CMS to the AP, prior to Hutchinson's announcement: "Longstanding Medicaid laws prohibit states from restricting individuals who have coverage through Medicaid from receiving care from a qualified provider. By restricting which provider a woman could choose to receive care from, women could lose access to critical preventive care, such as cancer screenings."

Here's the earlier post I put up just moments before the governor made his announcement: 

The AP's Andrew Demillo reports that Gov. Asa Hutchinson is looking in to requests by lawmakers that he terminate the state's Medicaid provider contract with Planned Parenthood. 

Two other states, Louisiana and Alabama, have tried this maneuver and the federal Department of Health and Human Services have told them that federal law prohibits excluding a qualified Medicaid provider without a legally valid reason. 

As we reported earlier this week, Rep. Nate Bell sent a letter requesting that Hutchinson block Medicaid funds to Planned Parenthood. Demillo reports that Sen. Eddie Joe Williams also sent a similar request to the governor. Meanwhile, on social media, Rep. David Meeks says that a number of lawmakers made an informal request as well ("it's safe to say that this has the support of the GOP caucus," he said). 

For more background on this issue, see this post. A commenter asked about this in another post, so to be clear: The Arkansas legislature banned state funding to Planned Parenthood during the 2015 session, but it specifically exempted Medicaid payments from the law to stay in compliance with federal regs. What Bell, Williams, and co. are proposing is disallowing reimbursements (mostly federal money) to Planned Parenthood as a Medicaid provider. Bear in mind that Medicaid dollars are prohibited by law from paying for abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or to protect the life of the mother. But Planned Parenthood provides other medical services to Medicaid patients, and Medicaid funds are a significant source of the nonprofit's revenues. 

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