Greg Abbott Is Willing to Risk Medicaid Funding to Defund Planned Parenthood

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Governor Greg Abbott is poised to put access to preventative reproductive health services at risk for those who have the most to lose.

In October, Abbott announced that the state was pulling Medicaid funding from Planned Parenthood affiliates receiving reimbursement payments for family planning and preventative health services. The decision, one in a long line of attempts to target and demonize not only Planned Parenthood but all abortion providers in the state, prompted Planned Parenthood to sue the state. Like 2011’s budget, which slashed family planning funding by 2/3, and the passage of HB 2, this is just another example of the willingness of Texas Republicans to put ideology and primary voters over access to healthcare for all Texans.

Abbott’s decision was based on the Planned Parenthood sting videos that have been thoroughly debunked.

The state of Texas only supplies a small percentage of the Medicaid dollars that go towards reimbursing services at clinics like Planned Parenthood affiliates. As reported by the Texas Tribune, in 2015 Texas only provided $310,000 to Planned Parenthood through Medicaid reimbursements, but the state is also responsible for dispensing federal funds to providers. In this case, $2.8 million in reimbursements. In 2014, Planned Parenthood received over $3 million in reimbursements for providing family planning care to Medicaid patients. Though Texas’ contribution is minimal, Greg Abbott is using the state’s involvement in dispensing state and federal Medicaid reimbursement funds as an opportunity to defund Planned Parenthood.

Sound familiar? It should.

In 2011, then-Attorney General Greg Abbott issued his rulings as a part of a concerted plan to cut Planned Parenthood out of the Texas Women’s Health Program. That effort originated in the legislature with bills that reauthorized the Women’s Health Program only if Planned Parenthood was barred from acting as a provider. The program was ultimately continued through a budget rider that also cut abortion providers and their affiliates out of the program, based on Abbott’s ruling which asserted that this was a legal move.

The Obama Administration and the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) did not agree. In a memo sent to all fifty states, CMS explained that while Medicaid cannot reimburse abortion services, states cannot bar abortion providers from receiving funds for services delivered through the Medicaid program. After some back and forth, and a lot of grandstanding from Perry on his first try at the campaign trail, the federal government confirmed what many had feared: it would not be renewing the waiver through which the state received federal matching funds to support the Women’s Health Program. Rick Perry promised that the state could carry on with it’s own program and created the Texas Women’s Health Program. Enrollment in the TWHP is still far below the enrollment in the Women’s Health Program.

At issue then as now is whether the state can make such decisions about a program which receives the majority of its funding from the federal government. In 2012, the answer was no, and the state decided to abandon a 90% federal match – to the tune of $35 million – in funding for family planning services just so it could stick it to Planned Parenthood. Governor Abbott seems to be prepared to do exactly the same thing.

The federal government has already warned the state that cutting Planned Parenthood as a provider of Medicaid services may be in violation of federal law, as reported by the Texas Tribune. In a statement, the US Department of Health and Human Services explained:

    “Longstanding Medicaid law prohibits states from restricting individuals with Medicaid coverage from receiving their care from any qualified provider. Every year, millions of women benefit from critical preventive services, such as cancer screenings, that Planned Parenthood provides. State efforts to restrict women from using qualified providers puts these important health care services at risk.”

But Abbott and the other Republicans at the helm would have us believe that the evidence in those afore-mentioned videos provide grounds enough to determine that Planned Parenthood affiliates are no longer “qualified,” and therefore the state is well within its rights to deny their involvement in the Medicaid program.

If the events of 2011 and 2012 are any indication, there is plenty of reason to expect that the federal government will not agree. And, again, leaders in the state of Texas will choose their fundamentalist opposition to anything related to abortion over the provision of preventative healthcare services to Medicaid clients in Texas.

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About Author

Genevieve Cato

Genevieve Cato is a feminist activist and a native Texan. While not writing for the Burnt Orange Report, she can be found working for NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, serving as a community member of the Communications Committee for the Lilith Fund for Reproductive Equity, and drinking copious amounts of pretentious local craft beers.

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