AG Hill files brief arguing states can deny Medicaid status to abortion clinics

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Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill is arguing in a Supreme Court amicus brief that states have the rightful authority to deny abortion clinics the status of being Medicaid providers.

Hill, co-leading the 19-state brief, is asking that the U.S. Supreme Court overturn lower court precedents holding otherwise in a recent 4th Circuit Court of Appeals decision. In that decision, the 4th Circuit cited the federal Medicaid Act when it prohibited South Carolina from terminating a Medicaid provider agreement with Planned Parenthood.

“The Medicaid Act merely sets forth conditions under which states may receive Medicaid reimbursement from the federal government,” Hill said in a Wednesday statement. “This legislation was never intended to restrict the authority of states to manage their own Medicaid programs. It was never meant to establish enforceable rights among abortion providers and women obtaining abortions.”

Nearly a decade ago, the Indiana General Assembly passed a law that abortion providers could not be Medicaid providers, Hill said in a news release. Federal courts invalidated that statute under the Medicaid Act, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the case.

Hill now argues several Supreme Court justices have acknowledged inconsistencies in lower court precedents involving the issue in recent years.

The Indiana-led brief asks the Supreme Court to clarify whether abortion providers like Planned Parenthood may sue states to be deemed qualified Medicaid providers.

“The Medicaid Act is not a civil-rights statute imposing duties and restraints on States with respect to healthcare financing,” the brief says. “Rather, it creates a program that States may use to finance their own healthcare benefits for the poor and disabled. … States have substantial discretion to design and administer their Medicaid programs within broad federal guidelines.”

The brief further asserts the Supreme Court should affirm that Medicaid providers and beneficiaries are not the rightful enforcers of federal Medicaid rules. Instead, it argues that responsibility falls to the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services.

“That sort of executive judgment, made by an official appointed and removable by the President, and subject to judicial review at the State’s request, is critical to the proper functioning of Medicaid,” the brief argues. “… The Secretary may adjust the funding spigot (gradually if so desired), but in all events the law permits a State to do as it sees fit. In contrast, a federal court in a lawsuit like this may only issue an injunction that upsets the federal-state tradeoffs put in place by politically accountable officials.”

The Supreme Court has not made a decision on whether it will hear the case, Joshua Baker, Director, South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Petitioner v. Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, et al., 19-1186.

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