On Friday, federal Medicaid officials informed Texas that it could no longer receive federal funding for women’s health programs under Medicaid because Texas defied federal Medicaid law by refusing to allow clinics that provide abortion services access to the funds. Texas’ tenther Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) immediately fell back to his go to position whenever he doesn’t like anything the Obama Administration does — claiming that the administration’s action must violate the Tenth Amendment:
We don’t think that — whether it’s Planned Parenthood or one of their affiliates — that they should be getting our dollars to be used in their programs. And we see, whether it’s Planned Parenthood directly or whether it is one of their affiliates that is involved directly in the abortion business, ah, our legislature is pro-life, overwhelmingly voted to not allow Planned Parenthood to be receiving any of these dollars, and yet this administration, in clear violation of the Tenth Amendment of the United States — ah, they’re just playing politics.
Perry, of course, also believes that Social Security and Medicare are unconstitutional, so his views on the Constitution aren’t exactly credible. Nevertheless, Perry’s claim that Texas has a right to openly defy federal law and still expect to receive all the federal funds he wants is particularly unfortunate.
As ThinkProgress previously explained, Medicaid is one of many federal programs where the federal government offers money up to the states in return for their agreement to comply with certain conditions. States may take the money and accept the conditions, or they may refuse the money outright. But they cannot take the money and then refuse to use it as the federal government instructs them to use it for the same reason that someone cannot take a job, refuse to comply with their own job description and then expect to continue to draw a salary.
One condition that Medicaid law places on the states is that the states must allow patients to freely choose their own health provider — even if that provider is affiliated with an organization the state doesn’t like. Texas doesn’t want its Medicaid beneficiaries to have this choice, which is Texas’ right, but Texas does not have the right to openly defy federal law and expect the federal government to pay for it.
Indeed, it should be obvious why Texas cannot have this right. If Texas can defy one part of Medicaid law, it can defy any part of Medicaid law. Under Rick Perry’s reading of the Tenth Amendment, there’s nothing preventing Texas from taking billions in Medicaid funds and then using them to build a luxurious new wing onto the governor’s mansion.