Missouri on Friday suspended Medicaid reimbursement payments to Planned Parenthood, a move that will affect thousands of its low-income patients.
The organization’s affiliates got the news in a letter the same day from Dale Carr, director of Missouri Medicaid Audit & Compliance, who said it was required by a provision in the 2018 budget cutting off funds for abortion providers and abortion counselors.
That provision was part of a bill appropriating money for the Department of Social Services that passed on May 9. The letter was sent even though the bill had yet to be signed by the governor. Gov. Mike Parson told KCUR on Tuesday evening that he intends to sign it.
“I aim to go ahead with that legislation,” he said.
About 7,000 Medicaid patients rely on Planned Parenthood’s 11 clinics in Missouri for a broad array of health services, including cancer screenings, testing for sexually transmitted infections and birth control.
Federal law already bars the use of Medicaid funds for abortions, but the budget provision cuts off Medicaid funding for all Planned Parenthood's services.
Brandon Hill, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, which operates four of Planned Parenthood's Missouri clinics, denounced the move.
“By sending us a last-minute letter claiming to suspend our Medicaid provider number, the state jeopardizes thousands of Missourians’ access to birth control, cancer screenings, and STI (sexually transmitted infections) testing,” he said in a statement to KCUR.
“Fast tracking a bad budgetary decision is not a great way for Gov. Parson to start restoring balance in the state, and follows in the footsteps of his predecessor by attacking health care access in the state of Missouri.”
Missouri already has some of the most restrictive abortion regulations in the United States. On Friday, a federal judge refused to halt a Missouri rule requiring medication abortion providers to be backed up by ob-gyns with hospital admitting privileges who are available 24 hours a day seven days a week.
Planned Parenthood’s clinics in Columbia and Springfield have been unable to comply with the rule because physicians there have been unwilling to contract with them. As a result, women seeking medication abortions will have to travel to Planned Parenthood’s clinics in Kansas City and St. Louis. Because Missouri also imposes a 72-hour waiting period on women seeking abortions, many women will have to make overnight accommodations in those cities or else make a return trip that could require hundreds of miles of travel.
Missouri’s denial of Medicaid funding comes shortly after the Trump administration unveiled a proposed rule that would deny family planning funds to clinics providing abortion services or referrals. Although the rule must undergo a review process that’s likely to take months, Planned Parenthood officials have said they are already gearing up to challenge it.
Dan Margolies is a senior reporter and editor at KCUR. You can reach him on Twitter @DanMargolies