Good news, at least potentially.
Stephanie Goodman of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission confirms that the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services sent a bulletin advising state officials that federal rules do not permit states to ban certain health care providers “because they separately provide abortion services.”
The bulletin notes that while federal money cannot be used to pay for abortion services except in extraordinary circumstances like rape or saving the life of the mother, “at the same time, Medicaid programs may not exclude qualified health care provicers — 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.”
Several states, including Texas, have attempted to restrict funding to Planned Parenthood because legislators suspect that government funds are co-mingled with their abortion services. In the recently-ended regular session of the Texas Legislature, lawmakers considered but failed to adopt a “poison pill” provision banning the state from allowing Planned Parenthood to offer family planning and other women’s health services. But budget writers did include a provision in the state budget prioritizing what types of clinics would receive limited government funds for those services — and listed Planned Parenthood last.
State Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, said he was inquiring into the bulletin, but believes it could affect the budget rider.
“The argument they make is about (patients having) choice of providers,” he explained. “So I believe one could argue it applies because your choices are limited (under the rider) and that is not what the federal government intended.”
Previously, the feds had informed the state of Indiana that its Medicaid plan, which bans funding to Planned Parenthood, is illegal. I don’t know enough about either state’s bills to be able to make a comparison, but the fact that the Obama administration is taking an aggressive stance in defending Medicaid from state shenanigans is definitely welcome. It also suggests that the Medicaid-related legislation that has been resurrected for the special session is even more likely to be a waste of time. Which, again, is a good thing. In the meantime, be prepared to plug your ears as the inevitable wailing and gnashing of teeth from the “keep government out of our business while we meddle in women’s business” crowd starts in earnest.