CMS Warns States: You Can’t Withhold Planned Parenthood Funds

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Warning / Bernard DUPONT

April 19, 2016; Washington Post

“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.”

“Re: Clarifying ‘Free Choice of Provider’ Requirement in Conjunction with State Authority to Take Action against Medicaid Providers” (SMD-#16-005), Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)

NPQ has written a good deal about the attempts by several states to curtail Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood, and until now, those battles have been fought at the state level—though the Department of Health and Human Services has warned states about an existing rule promulgated in 2011 that disallowed the pulling of Medicaid dollars based on other services provided. But yesterday, in an unprecedented caution from CMS, the Obama administration warned all 50 states that anything they do to cut the Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood might put them at odds with federal law.

The 10 states that have attempted to cut funding are Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, and Wisconsin, but 24 have been involved in a variety of actions to interfere with the organization’s ability to provide women’s health services. Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement that in recent months, “These political attacks on our patients have gone from a simmer to full rolling boil. […] What they couldn’t do in Congress, they’re now trying to do state by state, and jeopardizing care for more than half a million people.”

Marissa Padilla, a spokeswoman for the federal Health and Human Services department, wrote the following in a statement:

CMS is sending a letter to all states to ensure they have a clear understanding of their obligation to follow longstanding Medicaid law guaranteeing that beneficiaries have the right to receive covered services, including family planning services, from any qualified and willing provider of their choice.

—Ruth McCambridge