Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) continued Texas’ ongoing legal battle against Planned Parenthood Thursday by filing a federal lawsuit seeking to force the organization to give back $10 million in Medicaid funding it received after it was terminated as a Medicaid provider. That termination came as a direct result of a video hoax circulated purporting to show Planned Parenthood selling fetal tissue for profit. Paxton argues that although courts ordered Texas not to throw Planned Parenthood out of its Medicaid program, the case should never have gone through the courts at all.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. district court in Amarillo accuses Planned Parenthood of “knowingly and improperly avoid[ing] its obligation to repay money owed to the Texas Medicaid program,” and demands the return of “taxpayer dollars.”
Specifically, the complaint asserts that between 2017 and 2021, Planned Parenthood made $10 million in Medicaid claims, then held on to those payments “after they knew or should have known that they were not entitled to keep the money.” According to indicted AG Paxton, Planned Parenthood was officially stripped of its Medicaid provider credentials in December 2016, but continued to make claims after that termination had become final.
Texas’ termination of Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid authorization would cost the organization approximately $4 million per month in funding. The state’s decision to terminate followed a highly publicized and later-debunked video released by anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress which purported to show that Planned Parenthood was selling fetal tissue for profit. Makers of the video have faced criminal charges, civil liability, and fines.
The crux of Texas’ legal argument in the current case is that Planned Parenthood should have contested the termination via administrative channels, but rather, improperly chose to file a federal lawsuit instead.
Back in December 2016, Medicare did contest its termination — but by requesting and receiving a preliminary injunction in Texas district court. Senior U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks, a George H.W. Bush appointee, sided with Planned Parenthood, issuing a preliminary injunction on the basis that Texas failed to present “even a scintilla of evidence” warranting its termination from the Texas Medicaid program. Sparks commented that Texas’ decision to eliminate $4 million in funding “had nothing to do” with the clinics’ qualifications.
Texas appealed that injunction in November 2020, and the conservative U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit sided with Texas. Planned Parenthood next pursued the matter in Texas state court, where it again obtained a preliminary injunction, halting Texas’ plan to throw it out of the Medicaid system.
According to Paxton, however, Planned Parenthood had 15 days to appeal its termination directly to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, the administrator of the Texas Medicaid program. Its failure to do so while still collecting on claims, argues Paxton, amounts to Medicaid fraud.
Planned Parenthood general counsel Kumiki Gibson issued a statement to Law&Crime Thursday as follows:
These meritless claims are yet another political attack on Planned Parenthood by anti-abortion politicians in their relentless assault on essential sexual and reproductive health care, including access to safe and legal abortion in Texas. Attorney General Ken Paxton, Governor Greg Abbott, and their allies continue to do everything in their power to undermine the health care of Texans, who have suffered under the most restrictive abortion law in the nation for more than four months now. Planned Parenthood will continue to fight back against all of these false accusations and political attacks and will continue serving patients in Texas – no matter what.
Law&Crime did not immediately receive a response to our request for comment from the Texas Attorney General’s Office.
[Image via by Brandon Bell/Getty Images]
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