Officials Block Indiana Law That Would Have Stopped Planned Parenthood From Receiving Medicaid Funds

A 2011 Indiana law, which would have prevented Planned Parenthood from receiving Medicaid funds, has been blocked by a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services administrative ruling. An initial CMS ruling, made in June, found the law unacceptable, and Indiana asked the agency to reconsider. The CMS administrator blocked the law on the grounds that it denies women the freedom to choose their health care providers.

The law would have made Indiana the first state to deny Medicaid funds to Planned Parenthood funds for general health screenings. According to one estimate, 9,300 Indiana women rely on Planned Parenthood for their health care, which includes cancer screenings, STD testing, and birth control. Indiana is trying to deny Medicaid funds to Planned Parenthood because they also perform abortions:

Indiana had argued that Medicaid funds intended to help groups like Planned Parenthood provide general health care would indirectly subsidize abortions. The Hyde Amendment, a 1976 provision named after the late Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., bans all federal funds for abortion except in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is at risk.

The state also said Planned Parenthood could continue to receive Medicaid funding if it established separate fiscal entities for abortion and other health care. But CMS said such an option was premature.

Hearing officer Benjamin Cohen wrote that the Indiana law violated the federal requirement that individuals must have the freedom to obtain care from any qualified provider. Restricting that choice just because a care provider also offers non-covered care isn’t allowed, he wrote.

The law is being challenged on parallel tracks, both administratively at CMS and in federal court. The challenge in federal court is ongoing, but a lower court ruling agreed with CMS that Indiana is likely to lose the challenge.

If CMS maintains its position that Indiana’s plan to defund Planned Parenthood violates federal law, Indiana may have to choose between their plan and receiving federal Medicaid dollars. In order to receive the federal funds, states must have their plan to provide medical assistance approved by CMS.

Earlier this year, Texas lost all federal Medicaid funding for the Women’s Health Program because of its decision to exclude abortion providers, including Planned Parenthood. A federal appeals court later ruled that Texas cannot block Planned Parenthood from receiving state funds because it is likely that preventing them from participating in the Women’s Health Program is unconstitutional.

Alex Brown