Kansas Strips Planned Parenthood Of Medicaid Funding

May 4, 2016

This story was updated at 9:29 a.m. and at 2:33 p.m. 

Just two weeks after the Obama administration warned states that ending Medicaid funding of Planned Parenthood may run afoul of federal law, Kansas on Tuesday terminated the Medicaid contract of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri.

Eleven states, including Missouri, have now cut off Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood. Courts in four states have blocked those moves.

In a written statement, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, Laura McQuade, denounced Kansas’ decision and accused Gov. Sam Brownback of using health care “as a political football.”

“This is an outrageous attempt by Gov. Brownback to punish the women and men who have freely chosen Planned Parenthood for their health care for decades,” she said. “Denying Kansans on Medicaid access to Planned Parenthood services flies in the face of the clear federal guidance that protects the rights of patients to see their provider of choice.”

Kansas’ move comes after anti-abortion activists last summer released highly edited videos purporting to show that Planned Parenthood clinics illegally sold fetal tissue for profit. Earlier this year, the Kansas Board of Healing Arts said it was not taking any action against Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri after failing to find evidence of wrongdoing. Similar investigations in other states, including Missouri, have also cleared Planned Parenthood clinics.

In January, a Houston grand jury convened to investigate Planned Parenthood instead indicted two of the anti-abortion activists involved in the making of the videos.

“Governor Brownback’s own administration, including the Board of Healing Arts and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment vindicated Planned Parenthood of the egregious allegations made against it in 2015,” McQuade said in her statement. “Brownback is using health care as a political football, and it’s Kansans who will pay the price if he’s not stopped. This is not over. Our doors are open today, they’ll be open tomorrow, and we’ll fight this with everything we’ve got.”

In his State of the State address in January, Brownback accused Planned Parenthood of trafficking in “baby body parts” and vowed to de-fund Planned Parenthood. He stood by his remarks after the Texas grand jury found no wrongdoing by the organization and indicted the video makers instead.

In a statement Wednesday, Brownback spokeswoman Eileen Hawley said, "The governor called for this action in his 2016 State of the State address, in order to protect the unborn and support a culture of life in Kansas. Planned Parenthood has been fully informed of the reasons for this decision, including their own refusal to submit to a lawful inspection of their premises." 

Planned Parenthood did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Hawley's statement. 

Kansas’ decision comes less than two weeks after the Missouri legislature blocked Medicaid funding for clinics offering elective abortions. Although Medicaid funds are already forbidden to be used for abortions, Planned Parenthood accepts Medicaid payments for preventive screenings, family planning, vaccinations and other health services.

Missouri lawmakers replaced the Medicaid funds with state general revenues, stipulating the money could not be directed to organizations like Planned Parenthood that provide abortions.

Just days before that, the director of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), Vikki Wachino, warned in a letter sent to all 50 state Medicaid agencies that they cannot cut funding to medical providers simply because they also offer abortion services.

“Providing the full range of women's health services neither disqualifies a provider from participating in the Medicaid program, nor is the provision of such services inconsistent with the best interests of the beneficiary, and shall not be grounds for a state's action against a provider in the Medicaid program,” she wrote.

Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri learned of the Brownback administration’s decision Tuesday afternoon when it received a letter from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s Division of Health Care Finance (DHCF).

The letter, signed by Jason Osterhaus, program integrity unit manager, alluded to an earlier notification from the agency of its intention to terminate its participation in the Kansas Medicaid program at the direction of the governor. As reasons, it cited noncompliance with state law and regulations, noncompliance with the terms of its provider agreement, “unethical or unprofessional conduct” and “other good cause.”

The letter noted that Planned Parenthood had sought administrative review of the decision. Following that review, Osterhaus wrote, “it is the decision of DHCF that your participation in (the program) will be terminated effective May 10, 2016.”

The letter stated that Planned Parenthood has 33 days to seek review of the decision.

Dan Margolies, editor of the Heartland Health Monitor team, is based at KCUR. You can reach him on Twitter @DanMargolies.