May 31, 2011 — Thirty Senate Democrats on Thursday sent a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, urging department officials to warn state Medicaid directors against implementing measures to block Medicaid or Title X family planning funds from clinics that provide abortion services, CBS News reports. The letter responds to a new Indiana law that bars state agencies from contracting with or giving grants to clinics that provide abortion services. The law would require Indiana to amend its state Medicaid plan; the requested changes are under federal review because they impact how Medicaid funds can be distributed (Condon, CBS News, 5/27).
The Obama administration has indicated that it will not approve the changes to Indiana's state Medicaid program that are needed to comply with the law, which cuts off Medicaid reimbursements to clinics affiliated with Planned Parenthood of Indiana. Although federal officials have 90 days to review the changes before acting, they might act sooner because the state began enforcing the measure on May 10 and other states are considering similar legislation. The administration has said the Indiana law imposes impermissible restrictions on the freedom of Medicaid beneficiaries to choose health care providers.
Meanwhile, PPIN and the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana have filed suit against the law. U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt rejected the organizations' request to issue an immediate injunction to block enforcement of the measure, and the funding ban went into effect immediately. The judge will hold a hearing on PPIN's request for a permanent injunction on June 6 and is expected to decide by July 1 whether to continue allowing enforcement while she considers the case (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/23).
Details of Letter
The lawmakers wrote in the letter, "We respectfully request that [HHS] issue guidance to state Medicaid directors clarifying that taking action to exclude family planning clinics that provide abortion services from Medicaid participation, such as Planned Parenthood, will lead to compliance actions." They added that the law would block Medicaid beneficiaries from getting comprehensive care, in violation of the program's purpose.
"The restrictions threatened by state legislatures blatantly contradict the spirit and letter of well-established and long-accepted law," the letter said, adding, "We write not to ask support for new law, but for vigorous, prompt enforcement of existing law" (McCarthy, National Journal, 5/26).
Debra Ness, publisher & president, National Partnership
Andrea Friedman, associate editor & director of reproductive health programs, National Partnership
Marya Torrez, associate editor & senior reproductive health policy counsel, National Partnership
Melissa Safford, associate editor & policy advocate for reproductive health, National Partnership
Perry Sacks, assistant editor & health program associate, National Partnership
Cindy Romero, assistant editor & communications assistant, National Partnership
Justyn Ware, editor
Amanda Wolfe, editor-in-chief
Heather Drost, Hanna Jaquith, Marcelle Maginnis, Ashley Marchand and Michelle Stuckey, staff writers
Tucker Ball, director of new media, National Partnership