The two Planned Parenthood organizations in Kansas and Missouri wasted little time challenging Kansas’ termination of their Medicaid funding.
Just a day after the Kansas Department of Health and Environment notified them of its decision to cut off their Medicaid payments, Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri and Planned Parenthood of St. Louis Region sued the head of the agency, Susan Mosier.
The 31-page complaint alleges the termination was unlawful and based on spurious grounds, such as undercover videos taken last summer by abortion opponents that purport to prove that Planned Parenthood affiliates around the country sold fetal tissue for profit, a crime. Earlier this year, a Houston grand jury cleared Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing and indicted the makers of the videos instead.
Other spurious grounds cited by KDHE, according to the complaint, included the supposed failure of Planned Parenthood’s Overland Park clinic to cooperate with a solid waste disposal inspection last December. In fact, the complaint says, the clinic did cooperate, although it refused to allow inspectors to take photographs out of concern for patients’ and staff’s privacy and safety.
Another reason cited by KDHE, the complaint says, was that Oklahoma and Texas had identified potentially fraudulent Medicaid claims by the Planned Parenthood affiliates in those states. None of those affiliates, however, are related to the plaintiffs, the complaint states.
The Planned Parenthood plaintiffs contend KDHE’s action was “unlawful, unwarranted and (a) politically motivated decision” by KDHE, “at the direction of Gov. Sam Brownback” to end the organizations’ participation in the Kansas Medicaid program.
The lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in Topeka, seeks class action status on behalf of all Kansas Medicaid beneficiaries who use, or seek to use, the affiliates’ services. It estimates the size of the potential class at about 450 to 500 patients.
In a statement Wednesday, Laura McQuade, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, said the organization “won’t allow extremists like Gov. Brownback to make baseless accusations without consequence.”
“We are going to court on behalf of our patients and the health of all Kansans,” she said. “Let’s call this what it is, an attack on people who already have the least access to care. For our patients, it’s not about politics, it’s about their health care and going to the provider they know and trust. Gov. Brownback has no business telling women and men where they can and cannot go for high quality health care.”
Eileen Hawley, a spokeswoman for Gov. Brownback, said the governor’s office won’t comment on pending litigation.
Kansas’ decision to end Medicaid funding for the affiliates came just weeks after he director of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), Vikki Wachino, warned in a letter sent to all 50 state Medicaid agencies that they cannot cut funding to medical providers simply because they also offer abortion services.
“Providing the full range of women's health services neither disqualifies a provider from participating in the Medicaid program, nor is the provision of such services inconsistent with the best interests of the beneficiary, and shall not be grounds for a state's action against a provider in the Medicaid program,” she wrote.
Planned Parenthood of St. Louis joined the lawsuit because it operates a health center in Joplin, near the Kansas state line, and serves a small number of Kansas patients.
Also joining the action were three anonymous “Jane Doe” plaintiffs, representing Medicaid enrollees who are at risk of losing the services of the Planned Parenthood affiliates, and 11 former and current employees of the affiliates whom the complaint says were also terminated by KDHE.