The federal health agency warned Louisiana officials that Gov. Bobby Jindal’s termination of Planned Parenthood as a Medicaid provider may violate federal law.
But the administration countered Wednesday that it used state law that allows contracts to be canceled with 30-day notice by either party. Louisiana is not discriminating against the organization because of the services it provides, a Jindal official said.
“That gets into the choice issue,” said Olivia Watkins Hwang, spokeswoman for the state Department of Health and Hospitals.
Jindal ended the state’s nearly $300,000 contract with Planned Parenthood last week, saying the organization is not worthy of getting public assistance from the state. He cited undercover videos that allegedly depict the selling of fetal body parts at some facilities outside Louisiana.
At the time, Jindal said that Planned Parenthood does not represent the values of the people of Louisiana and shows a fundamental disrespect for human life. He already launched a state investigation into Planned Parenthood activities.
Louisiana has Planned Parenthood facilities in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Neither provide abortion services. The facilities receive Medicaid funds for the delivery of health care services, including cancer screening, sexually transmitted disease testing and family planning.
Federal judges in Arizona and Indiana have ruled that defunding Planned Parenthood for a reason unrelated to its fitness to provide medical services violates its patients’ right to obtain medical care from the qualified provider of their choice.
Federal law requires that Medicaid beneficiaries be allowed to obtain services, including family planning, from any qualified provider. In those cases, there was a conflict between federal and state law.
Hwang said DHH Secretary Kathy Kliebert, state Medicaid director Ruth Kennedy and Stephen Russo, the agency’s executive counsel, were involved in an Aug. 6 conference call with officials of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, called CMS.
Federal officials went over a 2011 memorandum that talked about states canceling Medicaid provider agreements based on the type of services provided, such as legal and privately funded abortions. Hwang said there has been no written communication.
“That was not the reason for the canceling of the contract with Planned Parenthood,” Hwang said.
DHH exerted its state right to cancel the agreement, Hwang said. “The justification for canceling the contract falls within state law,” she said.
Hwang also said that Planned Parenthood patients have other choices of providers.
Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast spokeswoman Jewel Bush disputed Hwang’s statement. “The fact is that thousands of people in Louisiana need health care. Far too many are uninsured and there simply aren’t enough providers,” Bush said.
Last year, Bush said, more than 5,200 people who accessed health care through Medicaid relied on and chose Planned Parenthood health centers to get and stay healthy. “We will do everything we can to fight this attack on health care and to make sure the women and men in Louisiana can continue to depend on Planned Parenthood health centers for essential health care like lifesaving cancer screenings, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, birth control and more,” she said.
A Planned Parenthood Federation of America official issued a statement applauding the federal health agency for reminding Louisiana that “blocking women’s access to care at Planned Parenthood is against the law.”
“Politicians in Arizona, Indiana and elsewhere have tried, and failed, to do the same thing,” said Dawn Laguens, Planned Parenthood Federation executive vice president. “This political grandstanding could have real and devastating consequences for women.”