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State to defend Planned Parenthood ban after adverse Medicaid recommendation

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The Office of the Indiana Attorney General continues to defend a 2011 state law that denies Medicaid funding for health care services to Planned Parenthood because the organization performs abortions.  A federal hearing officer recommended that the Department of Health and Human Services disapprove the state Medicaid plan amendment in the law.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Friday released a recommendation in which federal hearing officer Benjamin Cohen wrote after an administrative rehearing that the plan amendment under Indiana’s law, HEA 1210, was “contrary to the plain language of the freedom of choice provision” regarding Medicaid. Cohen upheld a prior Medicaid ruling against the law.

Cohen cited the language of Section 1902(a)(23) of the Social Security Act that says “any individual eligible for medical assistance (including drugs) may obtain such assistance from any institution, agency, community pharmacy, or person, qualified to perform the service or services required.”

The state argues it has authority to set provider qualifications for Medicaid funding, and that providing money to Planned Parenthood indirectly subsidized abortions.

“Like any other petitioner who is entitled to a hearing, the State of Indiana appreciated the opportunity to try to explain to CMS the Indiana Legislature’s public policy decision that private providers ought not indirectly subsidize abortion procedures through Medicaid dollars and that the legislation had that separation in mind,” Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said in a statement.

“My office by law must defend the laws the Legislature passes, and we have always contended this is a dispute between the state and a federal government agency, not between the state and a Medicaid provider, and ultimately should be decided in the appropriate venue,” Zoeller said.

The law also has been challenged in federal court, and the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals could rule at any time on Indiana’s request to lift an injunction against portions of HEA 1210.

Planned Parenthood, joined by the ACLU of Indiana, challenged the law.

Planned Parenthood CEO Betty Cockrum said in a statement, “We are gratified by the federal government’s decision and thrilled that (Planned Parenthood of Indiana) continues to be able to provide preventive health care to our patients. Through its appeal, the State was continuing its attack on women’s rights and attempting to restrict access to basic, lifesaving services such as Pap tests, breast exams, STD testing and treatment, and birth control.

“What is even more appalling is that these actions by the State would have penalized Hoosiers who are struggling to make ends meet right now – Hoosiers who are in need of the high-quality, affordable health care that (Planned Parenthood) provides.”

 

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