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Texas Moves to Cut Clinic’s Medicaid Funding

Texas said Tuesday it will cut Planned Parenthood’s $4 million in annual Medicaid funding, setting the stage for another court battle between the mortal enemies.

(CN) - Texas said Tuesday it will cut Planned Parenthood’s $4 million in annual Medicaid funding, setting the stage for another court battle between the mortal enemies.

The final notice issued Tuesday by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission follows through on the state’s efforts, which started in October 2015, to boot Planned Parenthood’s 34 Texas clinics from the state-funded health care program for the poor.

Planned Parenthood has 15 days to file an administrative appeal. The termination will take effect in 30 days if the appeal is denied. A Planned Parenthood spokeswoman said the organization will also ask a federal court for an injunction.

The termination notice cites undercover videos that purport to show employees of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast’s Houston clinic negotiating to sell the fetal tissue of aborted babies, one of several similar videos produced by the Center for Medical Progress, an anti-abortion group.

“The unedited video footage indicated that Planned Parenthood follows a policy of agreeing to procure fetal tissue, potentially for valuable consideration, even if it means altering the timing or method of an abortion. These practices violate accepted medical standards, as reflected in federal and state law, and are Medicaid program violations that justify termination,” according to the notice, which was signed by Texas Inspector General Stuart W. Bowen Jr.

Medicaid is jointly funded by federal and state government. The number of Texas Medicaid enrollees is expected to surpass 6.2 million by 2020, according to Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar.

Republican leaders in Texas have been criticized for not expanding Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act, which experts say is the reason the state leads the nation with more than 4.3 million uninsured residents, including 623,000 children.

Planned Parenthood has denounced the footage from the Houston clinic as a heavily edited sting video produced by Center for Medical Progress founder David Daleiden, who got inside the clinic by posing as a health care specialist and presenting a fake California driver’s license.

The videos spurred 11 states to launch investigations into Planned Parenthood, none of which have proven the women's health care provider sold aborted fetal tissue.

Planned Parenthood told the New York Times the loss of Medicaid funding in Texas could affect 11,000 patients, but it will keep doing cancer screenings, HIV tests and providing birth control to Medicaid patients as the appeals process plays out.

Texas’ leaders insist the videos are legitimate, despite the lack of evidence that Planned Parenthood shops fetal tissue.

“Texans expect that when taxpayer dollars are granted to health care providers, it is only to those who demonstrate that the health and safety of their patients comes before a profit motive that puts women at greater risk,” Gov. Greg Abbott’s office said in a statement to the Times.

Texas officials have also voiced concern that Medicaid funds abortions done by Planned Parenthood. But the health care provider has denied that in court filings.

“Texas Medicaid does not pay for abortions except in extremely narrow circumstances,” the group said in a November 2015 lawsuit.

Planned Parenthood filed that suit on behalf of 10 Jane Does who wanted to keep receiving services at its Texas clinics, after the state issued a preliminary notice that it was cutting the group’s Medicaid funding. The case is pending before U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks in Austin federal court.

Texas cited the covert videos in the preliminary notice, which it issued in October 2015, and also claimed Planned Parenthood was billing Medicaid for unnecessary services.

Planned Parenthood says it tailors its services to low-income women who juggle work and childcare duties by offering extended clinic hours and same-day birth control treatments. It also staffs its clinics with Spanish speakers.

“Texas is a cautionary tale for the rest of the nation. If the nation goes the way of Texas, it will be nothing less than a national health care disaster,” Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, told the Times. Cecile Richards is the daughter of Ann Richards, a Democrat who was Texas governor from 1991 to 1995. She died in 2006.

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