The Jindal administration has not given sufficient reasons to pull Medicaid funding from Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast’s Louisiana operations, attorneys for the federal government have told a Baton Rouge federal judge.
That judge, U.S. District Judge John deGravelles, is scheduled to hold a hearing Wednesday afternoon on Planned Parenthood’s request for an order blocking Gov. Bobby Jindal’s efforts to end the state’s Medicaid agreement with the group’s Louisiana affiliate.
Citing undercover videos that allegedly show the organization in violation of a ban on selling fetal tissue for profit at some Planned Parenthood facilities outside Louisiana, Jindal has said the organization is unworthy of receiving public assistance from the state.
Planned Parenthood has denied any illegal activity and contends the videos have been distorted through editing. Louisiana has Planned Parenthood facilities in Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
In court documents filed Monday, attorneys for the U.S. Department of Justice argue that terminating Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast from its Medicaid program, without providing any justification related to its qualifications to perform or bill for medical services, would violate Louisiana’s obligations under the Medicaid statute. The lawyers contend such an action would deny Medicaid beneficiaries of their right to obtain medical care from the qualified providers of their choice.
“Louisiana argues that the State Medical Assistance Programs Integrity Law authorizes it to terminate PPGC’s Medicaid provider agreements with or without cause and that, once these agreements are terminated, PPGC is no longer a ‘qualified provider,’ ” the Justice Department lawyers wrote.
“But States do not have unfettered discretion to determine that a provider is not ‘qualified’ for purposes of federal Medicaid law,” the lawyers claim. “Crucially, they cannot evade the statutory mandate ... through the simple expedient of incorporating ‘at-will’ termination provisions into their Medicaid provider agreements.”
The lawyers contend that allowing such a termination would render the Medicaid Act’s free choice provision meaningless and would run contrary to the congressional intent of giving Medicaid recipients the right to choose a provider.
The Jindal administration contends the state has the right to end the Medicaid provider agreement, and that the contract gives either party the right to cancel with 30 days’ notice. The governor exercised that right, the administration says.
Planned Parenthood, which sued the state Aug. 25, estimates more than 5,200 of its patients who use Baton Rouge and New Orleans facilities could lose access to health care on Wednesday if the court does not stop Jindal from ending the state’s Medicaid agreement with its Louisiana affiliate.
Termination of the contract also threatens the Baton Rouge facility’s future because 60 percent of its operating revenue comes from Medicaid, the suit alleges.
The state and federal government Medicaid program paid the Planned Parenthood clinics in Baton Rouge and New Orleans some $730,000 last year for services, such as cancer screenings, well-woman exams, sexually transmitted disease testing and treatment, and birth control.
Neither of Planned Parenthood’s facilities in Louisiana performs abortions. The group plans to seek a license for an abortion clinic associated with a new health center in New Orleans.