Louisiana Clinic Fights Scheduled Medicaid Cut

     BATON ROUGE (CN) – Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal wants to cut funding for Planned Parenthood though it doesn’t provide abortion services in Louisiana and Medicaid generally doesn’t pay for abortions there, the health provider says.
     Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast Inc. sued Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Kathy Kliebert in Federal Court on Tuesday, challenging the termination of Medicaid provider agreements that becomes effective Sept. 2.
     On Aug. 3, without any prior warning or concerns about PPGC’s participation in the Medicaid program, Kliebert notified the provider that her clinic was terminating its Medicaid provider agreements, effective 30 days from the date of the notice, according to the lawsuit.
     Gov. Jindal issued a press release the same day, saying, “Planned Parenthood does not represent the values of the State of Louisiana in regards to respecting human life.”
     PPGC says it has never provided an abortion in the state.
     “Louisiana Medicaid does not pay for abortions except in extremely narrow circumstances, and [Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast] has not to date provided abortions in Louisiana at all,” the lawsuit states.
     Videos referred to in Gov. Jindal’s press release were “heavily edited and misleading videos that opponents of Planned Parenthood have recently released with regard to Planned Parenthood’s abortion practices in other states,” according to the PPGC complaint. Gov. Jindal’s office played the allegedly edited videos last week during a protest at the governor’s mansion over the funding cuts.
     “Unless enjoined, the termination of PPGC’s Medicaid provider agreements will take effect on September 2, 2015, immediately disqualifying PPGC from providing basic and preventative health care services to over 5,200 Louisiana women and men who depend on that care,” the lawsuit states.
     PPGC says it has provided reproductive health care in Louisiana for more than 30 years, with two health centers in the state, one in New Orleans and another in Baton Rouge. Nearly 75 percent of medical visits in 2014 in Baton Rouge were for patients enrolled in Medicaid, and nearly 40 percent of the visits in New Orleans were for Medicaid enrollees, the provider claims.
     “Those numbers have only increased in the last year – over 60 percent of PPGC’s Louisiana visits are currently for patients enrolled in the Medicaid program,” the complaint states.
     PPGC was audited by a state legislative auditor in 2014, “pursuant to a politically motivated request from the legislature, and he concluded that PPGC’s Medicaid billings were appropriate and supported,” according to the lawsuit.
     “On information and belief, the procedures used by defendant in terminating PPGC’s providers’ agreements are highly irregular,” the complaint states. “Defendant has imposed a sanction of exclusion from Medicaid on PPGC without finding a ‘violation’ by PPGC and without providing PPGC the opportunity for a pre-deprivation hearing as state law requires.”
     Kleibert’s decision is part of Gov. Jindal’s “campaign against abortion and to punish abortion providers, even though the only services PPGC provides in Louisiana are family planning and other preventative health services to men, women and teens who need them,” PPGC claims.
     Sixty percent of Louisiana pregnancies in 2010 were untended, the state ranks fifth highest in teen pregnancy rates, and it has the highest rates of sexually-transmitted infections, according to the complaint.
     In 2005, in East Baton Rouge alone, of the 54,900 women needing contraceptive services and supplies, 31,700 of them – or 58 percent – were in need of Medicaid, the lawsuit claims.
     “If defendant’s actions take effect, many of PPGC’s Medicaid patients in Baton Rouge and New Orleans, who already have few or no alternative options, will find it difficult or impossible to access the reproductive health care services they need…which will lead to higher rates of unintended pregnancies, STIs, and undiagnosed cancers,” the complaint states.
     PPGC says that if it is “forced to stop providing care in the Medicaid program, a dire situation will become critical.” It seeks damages for violation of the Medicaid Act and the First and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as an injunction to prevent it from being stripped of its ability to accept Medicaid recipients as patients.
     The offices of Kliebert and Gov. Jindal did not immediately reply to requests for comment.
     PPGC is represented by William Rittenberg of Rittenberg, Samuel and Phillips in New Orleans, who also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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