WASHINGTON (BP) — A Planned Parenthood affiliate in Texas fraudulently claimed nearly $6 million in Medicaid reimbursements in less than three years, according to a whistleblower lawsuit recently made public.
The suit by Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood clinic director, was unsealed March 9, the same day the Obama administration confirmed it would not provide funds to Texas’ health program for low-income women because the state bars participation by abortion providers.
Johnson, who dramatically converted to the pro-life cause in October 2009, filed the lawsuit against Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, which includes clinics in southeast Texas and Louisiana. She served as director of Planned Parenthood’s Bryan, Texas, clinic from January 2007 to her sudden departure in October 2009.
Her suit alleges that Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast — then known as Planned Parenthood of Houston and Southeast Texas — filed during that period of time more than 87,000 claims with the state’s Medicaid Women’s Health Program that were “false, fraudulent, and/or ineligible” for reimbursement. Planned Parenthood received more than $5.7 million it was ineligible for, according to the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), which is representing Johnson in the suit.
In a late 2008/early 2009 meeting described in the suit, members of the affiliate’s management team revealed the fraudulent claims to its clinic directors. According to the suit, Johnson asked, “What are we going to do about the monies” Planned Parenthood had claimed and retained for about two years?
A member of the management team replied, according to the suit, “Well, we are going to hope we don’t get caught.”
ADF Senior Counsel Michael Norton said in a written statement, “No matter where a person stands on abortion, everyone should agree that Planned Parenthood has to play by the same rules as everyone else. It certainly isn’t entitled to a penny of public funds, especially if it is committing Medicaid fraud.”
Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), said during a March 9 visit to Houston her agency would not grant a waiver to Texas’ Medicaid Women’s Health Program, the Houston Chronicle reported. That decision will end federal funding for services to about 130,000 women. The federal government provides about 90 percent of the money for the program.
Sebelius said HHS is considering directly funding Planned Parenthood, according to the Chronicle.
The Obama administration’s decision came in reaction to a Texas law that prohibits the state from contracting under the program with organizations that “perform or promote elective abortions or affiliate with entities that perform or promote elective abortions.” The ban reportedly affects only Planned Parenthood. More than 1,000 health-care providers certified for the program are not affiliated with abortion clinics, according to the Texas Alliance for Life.
A rule enforcing the state’s legislative ban was finalized Feb. 23, and the administration warned it violated federal law.
Republican Gov. Rick Perry said March 8 he plans for the state to make up the difference in the program left by the federal government’s withdrawal. He told the Health and Human Services Commission to work with legislative leaders to find funding to maintain the services.
Perry said in a letter to Obama, “The federal government should not be in the business of protecting abortion providers at the expense of the health of Texas women. Texans send a substantial amount of our tax dollars to Washington, D.C., and it is unacceptable that your administration is denying Texas taxpayers the use of those dollars to fund this program simply because of your pro-abortion agenda.”
Affiliates of the Planned Parenthood Federal of America (PPFA) reported performing 329,445 abortions in 2010, again making PPFA America’s leading abortion provider. PPFA and its affiliates received $487.4 million in government grants, contracts and reimbursements alone in 2009-10, the most recent year for which statistics are available.
Johnson and six other ex-Planned Parenthood employees wrote a congressional committee in December to say they would testify to illegal or unethical behavior by the abortion giant’s employees or clinics. A subcommittee of the House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Committee initiated in September an investigation into Planned Parenthood’s policies and practices.
Since leaving Planned Parenthood, Johnson has become an outspoken pro-life advocate. She serves as senior policy advisor for Americans United for Life.
Compiled by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.