In the months since the Center for Medical Progress released undercover videos of Planned Parenthood officials haggling over the price of baby body parts, more than a dozen states have acted to strip part or all of its more than $500 million in annual taxpayer subsidies, much of which comes from Medicaid. Terminating a provider’s Medicaid privileges is not unusual. State and federal governments have excluded thousands of Medicaid providers from the program for a number of reasons.
Planned Parenthood is different. No other Medicaid provider has the combination of (1) more than a half billion in taxpayer subsidies and (2) a political action committee that spends millions and drives an army of activists to campaign for politicians who will keep those tax dollars coming.
Perhaps this is one reason why the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued an unprecedented letter to all 50 state Medicaid agencies warning them about cutting tax funds to Planned Parenthood and other abortionists.
This Is a Toothless Scare Tactic
The letter itself is not much of a defense of Planned Parenthood’s entitlement to our tax dollars. Even when warning about defunding Planned Parenthood, CMS had to acknowledge that states are free to exclude and sanction providers that have acted illegally or unethically. In its letter, CMS only requires “evidence” beforehand of such wrongdoing, citing no authority for such a requirement. Indeed, Obamacare and CMS regulations require states to investigate any “credible allegation” against a provider and to suspend payments during the investigation.
Medicaid providers aren’t entitled to public support. A state need not prove its case against a provider suspected of fraud or other illegal acts before stopping the flow of taxpayer dollars to that provider. CMS can’t argue otherwise.
CMS’s demand for evidence of wrongdoing is also obtuse in the context of Planned Parenthood. CMS sent this letter to Texas’s and Louisiana’s Medicaid agencies. The Obama administration recently settled a fraud claim against their affiliate, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, for $4.3 million, accusing it of submitting false claims to the Texas Women’s Health program. In fact, in every one of at least 11 states where state or federal auditors examined Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid billings, investigators found overbilling.
CMS sent this letter to Medicaid agencies in Ohio, Arizona, and five other states where Planned Parenthood failed to report sexual abuse of a minor girl on which it performed an abortion. In Ohio and South Carolina, investigators have recently found that Planned Parenthood was illegally dumping aborted babies into landfills in violation of state health and safety laws or, in Pennsylvania, storing aborted babies in a janitor’s closet.
There’s Plenty of Grounds for Suspicion
Of course every state has now had an opportunity to see the hours of footage of Planned Parenthood senior-level officials discussing the sale of baby body parts. While Planned Parenthood and its friends in Congress and the media would like to pretend these videos are “faked” (the mischaracterizations keep getting more desperate), their authenticity has been independently confirmed by a respected forensics company. Evidence of potentially illegal and unethical conduct is on video for every state to see.
CMS’s letter was also particularly ill-timed, since the very next day the House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives revealed evidence that far more abortionists than previously believed were selling aborted baby parts and these sales were “pure profit.” Since for-profit baby-part harvesting company StemExpress publicly promised abortion clinics it would give them “financial benefits” and “fiscal rewards” in marketing materials bearing the endorsement of a Planned Parenthood affiliate, this should come as no surprise to anyone interested in examining the available evidence.
The reality is that states have ample evidence to conclude that Medicaid should not subsidize Planned Parenthood and other abortionists. CMS’s letter, while unprecedented in its proactive national defense of a provider, cannot argue with this truth. But we do not have one Medicaid program, we have 50; and this decision to terminate Planned Parenthood as a provider remains with the states.
People Have Plenty of Alternatives
Nor is the fact that someone might prefer a provider a reason to keep that provider subsidized by Medicaid. One of the more common reasons Medicaid providers have been terminated is a simple failure to pay their student loans. No doubt many patients would still prefer those providers, but that doesn’t prevent states from enforcing legal and ethical standards.
The CMS letter asserts that, per agency policy, beneficiaries must have the “same ability to choose among available providers as those with private coverage.” No one with private coverage can demand that his or her preferred doctor be “in network.” That’s not how insurance works. There are roughly 200,000 Medicaid providers, and Federally Qualified Health Center locations outnumber Planned Parenthood locations nearly 20 to 1. There is no lack of choice of qualified providers without Planned Parenthood.
Despite characterizations by the press, the CMS letter actually does little to defend big abortion from the decision of many states to end its taxpayer subsidies. But the letter is more noteworthy not for its content than for its mere existence. Few other providers can count on a federal agency to mass mail every state Medicaid agency on its behalf. But Planned Parenthood is different.