Planned Parenthood wants Biden administration’s help in blocking Missouri’s new abortion rule

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Planned Parenthood officials in Missouri want the Biden administration to step in to block a new rule that could lead to Medicaid funding being cut off in the provider’s clinics around the state.

The new regulation makes it easier for the Department of Social Services (DSS) to withhold funding from abortion providers, which in Missouri is only Planned Parenthood. While Planned Parenthood officials said Wednesday, the same day the rule went into effect, they are prepared to go to court over the regulation, one lawmaker says the state will win because it has the right to protect its citizens.

“We call on the Biden administration to protect every qualified Medicaid provider including Planned Parenthood,” Yamelsie Rodriguez, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, said.

After guidance from a Senate committee on Medicaid accountability, the state has a new rule in place for abortion facilities.

“It’s not targeted specifically at Planned Parenthood, but they happen to be the only provider right now,” Sen. Bill White (R-Joplin) said.

White is the chairman of the committee, which started meeting this summer after a special session to renew the Federal Reimbursement Allowance (FRA), the tax from health care providers that funds Missouri’s Medicaid program. Senate leaders formed a committee to address some members’ concerns over Medicaid funds going to abortion providers, such as Planned Parenthood. The committee made recommendations to the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) and DSS earlier this year to make regulation changes.

“Through Medicaid programs, the states have the authority to established qualification standards for Medicaid providers and take action on providers that fail to meet those standards,” White said.

Part of the new regulation allows DSS and DHSS to work together during investigations.

“Better coordination between the Department of Health and Senior Services and the Department of Social Services, one does the investigation and the other does the termination of Mo HealthNet,” White said.

Planned Parenthood officials like Rodriguez disagree and say it’s up to the federal government.

“It’s the role of the Biden administration and CMS [Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services] to be the regulator and the enforcer of those Medicaid rules,” Rodriguez said. “This emergency rule process discriminates against Planned Parenthood by singling us out and treating us differently than any other Medicaid provider in the state.”

Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region saw more than 6,600 patients last year that were covered by Medicaid, Rodriguez said. That’s before expansion moves forward this month, allowing another 275,000 Missourians to become eligible for Medicaid.

Part of the new rule requires all employees to participate in an annual fire drill.

“We have people under sedation in an operating room and having procedures done on them and there’s a fire, those people in that room need to know what the heck they are supposed to do then because, obviously, they can’t just run out the front door,” White said.

Only one Planned Parenthood location in the state offers abortion services, located in the Central West End in St. Louis, but officials say this could affect the other 11 clinics in the state that don’t offer the procedure. Those clinics offer services such as cancer screenings, birth control, and STI testing and treatment.

“The emergency rules do not have any impact on our ability currently to provide care,” Rodriguez said. “What is at stake is the state’s attempt to weaponize the abortion regulatory process is a way to limit patients’ ability to access preventative family planning services.”

The chief medical officer at Reproductive Health Services in St. Louis Dr. Colleen McNicholas said she’s prepared for an inspection since the rule also requires accurate patient documentation and sterilized equipment.

“We are prepared for a surprise visit any day now,” McNicholas said. “I think the burden of enforcing this rests on CMS and the Biden administration, so we are going to lean in on them to say that this is not appropriate.”

Another part of the rule is if any doctor, nurse, or staff member doesn’t cooperate with the state’s health department during an investigation, that could also lead to the provider’s Medicaid funding being cut. Providers must also notify pathology labs of failed abortions within 24 hours along with performing pelvic exams 72 hours before a patient has an abortion, if medically necessary.

“If somebody decides to take them [the rule] the court, I think we win with this rule,” White said.

Under the Hyde Amendment, an abortion cannot be paid for with Medicaid dollars unless a woman’s life is in jeopardy.

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