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Bill would prevent Planned Parenthood from providing Medicaid services

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Slapped down in an earlier bid by federal judges, abortion foes at the Legislature are throwing up new roadblocks to Planned Parenthood being able to provide any services at all through the state’s Medicaid program.

HB2599 would allow the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System to exclude any organization that “failed to segregate taxpayer dollars from abortions.” That would include not only direct expenses for doctors and other staff members by any of the overhead expenses of keeping the lights on.

The legislation approved by the House Wednesday on a 35-24 party line vote comes two years after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to give Arizona the go-ahead to cut off family planning funding to Planned Parenthood simply because the organization also provides abortions. The justices let stand lower court rulings that said singling out that organization for disparate treatment is illegal.

This new proposal by Rep. Justin Olson, R-Mesa, is a way to get around those rulings.

But Jodi Liggett, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Arizona, said this measure suffers from the same legal flaws. She said if it is signed into law it will meet the same legal fate — a fate that resulted in Arizona taxpayers shelling out $200,000 to pay Planned Parenthood’s legal fees.

Arizona and federal laws already bar the use of public funds for abortions that are not medically necessary.
But the state, as part of its participation in the federal Medicaid program, provides family planning services for needy women. The federal government pays 90 percent, with the state covering the balance.

Medicaid statutes and regulations also permit eligible women to choose from any qualified provider, which has included Planned Parenthood.

In 2012, however, state legislators amended the law to say any organization that also provides abortions cannot be a “qualified provider.” Olson, who sponsored that legislation, too, said any money the government gives Planned Parenthood to pay for other expenses frees up funds for abortions.

But that argument failed to convince federal judges.

Judge Marsha Berzon, writing for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, pointed out that the law says those enrolled in Medicaid, which includes AHCCCS, to get the services they need from any qualified provider. And Berzon said there is no evidence that Planned Parenthood medical staffers are not “qualified.”

Olson said this new measure is legally distinguishable from that 2012 law. More to the point, he said it’s justified.

“The overwhelming majority of voters agree that tax dollars should not fund abortion,” he said.

“There’s no guarantee that that’s not occurring right now,” Olson continued. “What this bill does is it creates a requirement that a provider of abortions segregate those dollars so that taxpayers have some certainty that their funds are not being used to fund an abortion.”

Put simply, he said Planned Parenthood would not get family planning dollars unless it can show absolutely none of it helps underwrite the cost of elective abortions, even indirectly.

Liggett said she believes the current charges her organization levies on each service properly allocate all direct and indirect costs. But she said HB2599 is set up to provide a pretext to cutting off Medicaid dollars no matter what evidence Planned Parenthood provides.

Part of the problem, Liggett said, is providing the absolute proof of the lack of cross-subsidization to the satisfaction of state officials who operate from a position of opposing abortion.

“Nobody can prove that,” she said.

“Ask Banner Health if each of their hospitals can prove that they’re not paying for all their air conditioning” from one particular procedure or another, she said. And Liggett said the fact remains that Planned Parenthood is a single corporation and pays its bills out of a single fund.

Olson, however, said he is not setting a trap.

“You can segregate those appropriately through accounting,” he said.

“It’s done in the corporate world in many different instances,” Olson continued. “And I think the taxpayers are owed some certainty that their dollars are not funding something that they find abhorrent.”

The federal appellate court ruling on Olson’s last effort suggests he faces an uphill fight in attempting to declare that Planned Parenthood can be declared unqualified from Medicaid funding because it does not segregate its dollars could face an uphill fight.

In her ruling, appellate Judge Berzon said there are areas where an otherwise medically qualified physician or health-care provider can be determined to be unqualified. But she said that is limited to things like fraud, patient abuse, criminal activity and improper billing.

The measure now goes to the Senate.

2 comments

  1. Olson obviously knows no women. He wouldn’t be playing so loose with all women’s well-being and their lives, making their decisions for them, if he did. Or is he just an especially hateful man who lusts after power over women?

  2. Remember this logic with regards to something that is LEGAL and a right of every woman when it we start applying it to guns!

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