State efforts to block Planned Parenthood funding may be illegal

After making moves last week to block funding from Planned Parenthood under Medicaid, Louisiana and Alabama may be in conflict with federal law.

Regulation allows Medicaid beneficiaries to receive services from any qualified provider. But if states block their Medicaid-provider agreements with Planned Parenthood, patients are unable to receive care from the provider of their choice, according to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), reports the Wall Street Journal.

Because Alabama and Louisiana took action to terminate their Medicaid provider agreements with Planned Parenthood, women could lose access to critical preventive care, such as cancer screenings.

Planned Parenthood has praised the move by HHS, noting that blocking women's access to care at Planned Parenthood is against the law, reports The Hill

Still, per a June 2011 memo from HHS, states can exclude providers under certain circumstances such as if providers commit fraud, notes WSJ.

If federal and state officials cannot resolve the issue, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services could cut federal Medicaid funds to the state.

A spokeswoman for Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) tells the WSJ that the contract between the state health department and Planned Parenthood allows either party to cancel the contract within 30 days. Jindal announced plans to terminate the contract Aug. 3.

Meanwhile, the press secretary for Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) said the state's Planned Parenthood contract "allows either party to terminate on 15 days written notice." Bentley informed Planned Parenthood last week that he was ending the state's Medicaid agreement within 15 days.

"This really hasn't been tried before," Casey Mattox, senior legal counsel at the Alliance Defending Freedom, tells the WSJ. "Planned Parenthood has contracts with states that can be terminated for cause. In other situations the contracts were not terminated for cause."

Access to care for women has seen its ups and downs. In Ohio, for example, women's health and abortion rights advocates have expressed concern over a proposal in the state budget that would eliminate Medicaid coverage for three subsidized insurance programs that involve coverage for family planning, breast and cervical cancer service, and healthcare coverage for pregnant women, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

For more:
- here's the WSJ article
- read The Hill piece