Obama Administration Warns States Against Cutting Planned Parenthood Funding

Ever since the “Center for Medical Progress” released the undercover videos about Planned Parenthood that were doctored to suggest that the organization was selling fetal baby parts for profit, Republicans at both the state and national level have been attempting to strip Planned Parenthood of its government funding.

In order to understand why their attempts to do so will ultimately fail, it is important to know two things: (1) federal law prohibits the use of government funds to pay for abortions, except when a woman’s life is in danger, or in cases of rape or incest, (2) 75% of Planned Parenthood’s government funds come in the form of fee for service payments from Medicaid.

Efforts by Republicans in Congress to defund Planned Parenthood ultimately failed – but would have included the remaining 25% of government funds to the organization that come from grants such as the Title X family planning program.

So far 10 states have passed legislation to cut off Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood. But this week, the Obama administrationsent a letter to all 50 states warning that such action violates the law.

Federal health officials said the letter from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is being sent to all state Medicaid offices to clarify that terminating certain providers from Medicaid is only justifiable if those providers are unable to perform covered medical services or can’t bill for those services. The guidance emphasizes that states cannot target providers for impermissible reasons and are required to treat similar types of providers equitably.

“CMS is sending a letter to all states to ensure they have a clear understanding of their obligation to follow longstanding Medicaid law guaranteeing that beneficiaries have the right to receive covered services, including family planning services, from any qualified and willing provider of their choice,” according to Marissa Padilla, a spokeswoman for the federal Health and Human Services department.

This is the first step. When/if states refuse to comply, it is likely that a second step will follow. Whether that includes loss of federal Medicaid funds and/or court action remains to be seen. Courts have already blocked efforts to restrict access to care at Planned Parenthood in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Utah.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.