Kansas has “reconsidered” its decision to terminate the participation of 11 Planned Parenthood physicians and other medical providers in the state’s Medicaid program, although it’s still trying to cut off Planned Parenthood itself.
In a letter Monday to the federal judge overseeing a lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood and the providers to block their termination, a lawyer for the state said the decision to prohibit the medical providers from receiving Medicaid reimbursement “was made primarily to prevent PPKM (Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri) and PPSLR (Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region) from evading the effect of their terminations by having providers at their facilities use their individual (Medicaid) numbers.”
But after court briefings and arguments, the letter said, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment “decided to rescind the terminations of the providers.”
“This will avoid any potential unintended effects, while permitting KDHE to protect against evasion of its termination of PPKM and PPSLR through review of any charges submitted for services provided at these locations,” the letter stated.
In May, KDHE informed the two Planned Parenthood affiliates and the providers that it was ending their participation in the state’s Medicaid program effective May 10. The move came after Gov. Sam Brownback’s vowed in his State of the State address in January to cut off funding of the organization.
The affiliates and the affected providers – current and former physicians and nurse practitioners at the Planned Parenthood affiliates – immediately sued to block the move. KDHE has since postponed the cutoff date several times and now says it will end the affiliates’ participation in the Medicaid program on July 7.
U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson heard arguments last week on the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction and said she would rule before July 7.
Cassie Sparks, a spokeswoman for KDHE, declined to comment on the latest development in the case, saying the agency doesn’t comment on pending litigation.
KDHE’s decision to terminate the providers from the state Medicaid program, known as KanCare, has drawn less attention than its attempt to end Planned Parenthood’s participation. But in their lawsuit, the providers called the move “unprecedented” and said it would disqualify them from providing health care to as many as 500 Medicaid patients.
Although states are allowed to set “reasonable standards” on provider qualifications, a federal law known as the “free choice of provider requirement” guarantees that Medicaid beneficiaries have the right to see any qualified provider of their choice. The letter to Robinson appears to be a tacit acknowledgement that KDHE was standing on shaky legal ground.
Dan Margolies, editor of the Heartland Health Monitor team, is based at KCUR. You can reach him on Twitter @DanMargolies.