California Family Council signed onto an amicus brief last week along with over 30 other state leaders, urging the US Supreme Court to allow states to decide whether to fund abortion providers through Medicaid.
The friend-of-the-court brief was filed in Kerr v. Planned Parenthood South Atlantic. The South Carolina state Medicaid program does not cover abortion providers for Medicaid recipients. This case originated because a Medicaid recipient wanted her birth control to be covered by Medicaid at a Planned Parenthood location, so Planned Parenthood sued the state.
“States are permitted to decide what providers are qualified under Medicaid. If states like South Carolina want to use limited resources to promote holistic healthcare rather than providers that are focused only on abortion and related services, they should be free to do so. That’s the best way to provide high quality healthcare to the women of our states,” said Randy Wenger, Chief Counsel at Independence Law Center.
States and the federal government both contribute taxpayer dollars to each state’s Medicaid program. Only some medical providers are qualified to receive funds from Medicaid, and states determine which providers qualify. California’s Medicaid program, Medi-Cal, one of 17 state Medicaid programs that pays for abortions. The taxpayer funded program pays for half of all the abortions done in the state and 8% of the abortions in the country, with no deductibles or co-pays.
The brief argues that Planned Parenthood’s actions violate Medicaid’s rules. “The Medicaid any-qualified-provider provision found in 42 U.S.C. 1396a(a)(23) does not allow individuals to maintain a private right of action challenging a state’s determination that a provider is no longer qualified to provide Medicaid services.”
Planned Parenthood could have taken the standard approach and gone through the appeals process in South Carolina, but instead it chose to sue the state. This will harm the low-income families Medicaid is meant to serve.
Further, allowing Planned Parenthood to sue the state in this case sets an unsustainable precedent that would erode Medicaid’s standard operations. “Medicaid is a federal-state cooperative program that must be run according to uniform standards, remedies, and enforcement mechanisms…Permitting private litigants to sue every time a state terminates a provider’s ability to administer Medicaid services undermines this uniformity,” states the brief.
We are still awaiting a decision from the Supreme Court in the Dobbs v. Jackson case, which directly challenges Roe v. Wade. Even if Roe is overturned, the question of whether states have jurisdiction over which providers qualify for Medicaid funding will still need to be resolved.