Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Trump administration is quietly helping states defund Planned Parenthood

Democrats fear anti-abortion advocates are writing Trump’s health care policy — and the results could harm patients nationwide.

By Anna North  Feb 20, 2018, 1:20pm EST

Republicans in state legislatures have been trying for years to strip funding from Planned Parenthood. In January, the Trump administration gave them a gift, reversing Obama-era guidance regarding Medicaid funds.

The change could make it harder for low-income patients in red states to get reproductive health care at Planned Parenthood, and some fear it could ultimately affect patients in blue states as well. But that’s not all.

According to documents provided to Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) by a whistleblower and released earlier this month, the move by the Trump administration may have been inspired by a letter from the right-wing legal group Alliance Defending Freedom. Congressional Democrats now say they fear the Trump administration essentially let an anti-abortion group write its health care policy. Cummings’s office is now requesting all documentation leading up to the January decision, including any communications with ADF.

The January change appears to be part of a larger pattern in the Trump administration: policies on everything from birth control coverage to reproductive health access for unaccompanied minors are being forged by people with deep ties to anti-abortion groups, and sometimes, apparently, by those groups themselves.

The Trump administration has made it easier for states to strip funding from Planned Parenthood
To understand the Trump administration’s decision and its impact, you need to go back to 2015. That year, an anti-abortion group released hidden-camera videos in an effort to convince the public that Planned Parenthood was selling fetal tissue for a profit, which is illegal. The videos actually did not include evidence of this, and multiple investigations thereafter did not uncover any. But the videos touched off a wave of calls, at the state and federal level, to strip funding from Planned Parenthood.

One way states have tried to do this is by barring Planned Parenthood from being reimbursed for treating Medicaid patients. In 2016, the Obama administration sent a letter to states advising them that this was illegal; states could not bar providers from receiving Medicaid reimbursements unless those providers were unfit to perform medical services or to bill appropriately for those services.

On January 19, 2018, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, part of the Department of Health and Human Services, issued a short letter rescinding the Obama administration’s 2016 guidance, arguing that it “limited states’ flexibility with regard to establishing reasonable Medicaid provider qualification standards.”

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