JudicialDistrict Judge Extends Planned Parenthood’s Tenure on Texas’ Medicaid Program

The extension is a temporary restraining order against the state, though a more lasting ruling is expected in the coming week.
February 24, 2021
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A Travis County district court judge has again extended Planned Parenthood’s life as a Medicaid provider until a lasting decision can be reached.

In 2015, undercover videos prompted the state to cut Planned Parenthood from the Medicaid program. After the State of Texas and Planned Parenthood traded blows in court for years, a federal appellate court finally sided against the company in 2020 and ruled that the state reserved the right to choose and cull Medicaid providers.

Earlier this month, hours before the end of Planned Parenthood’s grace period, a Travis County district court judge issued a temporary restraining order against Texas to keep Planned Parenthood on the list of Medicaid providers pending a ruling on the company’s request for an injunction.

The recent snowstorm delayed the ruling, which was originally scheduled for February 17. A ruling on Planned Parenthood’s request for an injunction to stay in the program is expected next week.

Planned Parenthood argues that the state did not follow protocol in removing the company from the Medicaid program. Texas law requires reasonable notice of termination and the opportunity for a hearing in court — requirements that Planned Parenthood alleges the state did not fulfill with the letter of termination it issued on January 4 of this year. That letter also granted Planned Parenthood the 30-day grace period that would end in an eleventh-hour ruling in the company’s favor. The organization had asked for six months to help their customers and patients find new Medicaid providers, citing COVID-19 as an extenuating crisis.

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“We write in light of the COVID-19 public health crisis facing Texas, to ask the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to allow [Planned Parenthood providers] to continue serving Texans insured through the Medicaid program,” the organization’s letter read.

“At minimum, it is imperative that HHSC permit a brief grace period so that Planned Parenthood providers can provide continuity of care throughout the holiday season and the current crisis point of the pandemic.”

Texas argues that the notices of termination it sent in 2015 and 2016 already fulfilled these requirements.

After sending these notices, Planned Parenthood engaged the state in what would become a long legal battle that began with a victory for the company in a U.S. district court. The 2017 ruling found that cutting the company from Medicaid would cause harm to its patients. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit overruled the district court and found that the right to choose Medicaid providers rested with the state, not patients.

“A state agency may determine that a Medicaid provider is unqualified and terminate its Medicaid provider agreement even if the provider is lawfully permitted to provide health services to the general public,” the ruling reads.

Under the federal Hyde Amendment, the Medicaid program cannot fund abortions, though lawmakers in the Texas legislature have proposed requiring the state to pay for abortion services.

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Isaiah Mitchell

Isaiah Mitchell

Isaiah Mitchell is a reporter for The Texan, a Texas native, and a huge Allman Brothers fan. He graduated cum laude from Trinity University in 2020 with a degree in English. Isaiah loves playing music and football with his family.