News Briefs

Cole County judge blocks effort to deny Medicaid funds to Planned Parenthood

By: - December 28, 2022 6:01 pm

The Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis on June 24, 2022 (Photo by Tessa Weinberg/Missouri Independent).

Lawmakers cannot use appropriation bills to limit the list of eligible Medicaid providers, a Cole County judge ruled Wednesday in a decision allowing payments for health services provided by Planned Parenthood.

Circuit Judge Jon Beetem, ruling in a case filed by the two Planned Parenthood affiliates in Missouri, directed the Department of Social Services to stop denying claims from the two providers.

“Language purporting to deny plaintiffs access to funds that are otherwise available to other MO HealthNet providers is ineffective and/or unconstitutional,” Beetem wrote in the ruling delivered as a text entry on Casenet.

In the fiscal 2022 supplemental appropriation bill, and the bill providing Medicaid funding for the current fiscal year, the Republican majority inserted language denying claims “to any clinic, physician’s office, or any other place or facility in which abortions are performed or induced other than a hospital, or any affiliate or associate of any such clinic, physician’s office, or place or facility in which abortions are performed or induced other than a hospital.”

In addition, the bills include zero-dollar appropriations to such providers to restate their intention to deny funding. 

The text entry from Beetem did not address that provision specifically. He found that the general Medicaid funding lines in the appropriations bill was sufficient.

“The appropriation…is an appropriation that is available to all eligible MO HealthNet providers,” Beetem wrote.

The case decided Wednesday challenged the language of the supplemental appropriation bill, which covered state spending through June 30. The ruling does not specifically address the identical language for the current year.

The challenged provisions were designed to get around a 2020 Missouri Supreme Court decision declaring lawmakers violated the state Constitution when they tried to end all government funding of Planned Parenthood.

During debate on the budget bill, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Dan Hegeman, R-Cosby, said he expected the court case Beetem decided Wednesday.

“I want a decision on it because I do really feel there is a conflict right now,” he said.

Planned Parenthood of Great Plains, which operates in western Missouri and eastern Kansas, and Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, called the case a victory for women’s health. 

“The Missouri legislature’s open disregard for precedent and state law has failed, again,

Yamelsie Rodríguez, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, said in a news release.

The annual fights to block Planned Parenthood from providing family planning and women’s health services to Medicaid clients waste taxpayer money, Rodriguez said.

The ruling should tell lawmakers they cannot use appropriation bills to achieve ideological goals, Emily Wales, president and CEO, Planned Parenthood Great Plains said in the release.

“Once again, a Missouri court has sent a clear message to reactionary politicians: quit playing games and follow the law,” Wales said.

The two affiliates together operate 11 Planned Parenthood health centers in Missouri. The clinics have continued to provide care to Medicaid patients without reimbursement since the appropriation bill became law in March, the release stated.

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Rudi Keller
Rudi Keller

Rudi Keller covers the state budget and the legislature. A graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, he spent 22 of his 32 years in journalism covering Missouri government and politics for the Columbia Daily Tribune, where he won awards for spot news and investigative reporting.