BATON ROGUE–Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Kathy Kliebert abruptly notified Planned Parenthood locations in Louisiana on Aug. 3 that her department was terminating its Medicaid agreement with the clinics.
Planned Parenthood sued and won small victory: a temporary restraining order issued Oct. 18 to prevent the cutting of their Medicaid funding.
“This ruling is a victory for the more than 5,200 women and men in Louisiana who rely on Planned Parenthood for care through Medicaid,” said Melissa Flournoy Raegan Carter in a statement released to SE Texas Records. Carter is the Louisiana state director of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast.
“It is shameful that Governor [Bobby] Jindal is trying to score political points by blocking women’s access to critical health care,” she said. “For more than 30 years, Planned Parenthood in Louisiana has been there for the people who need us and has helped our communities lead healthier lives. We are proud to keep working hand-in-hand with the state and community partners to help thousands of hardworking Louisianans access critical health care.
"We will never stop fighting to provide health care services for the women and men in Louisiana.”
Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, echoed Carter’s sentiments.
“Yet another court has said it is unacceptable for politicians to dictate where women can go for their health care," she said. "This case was never about Planned Parenthood–it’s about the women who rely on us for basic care every day.”
The group, along with three patient co-plaintiffs, sued Kliebert in federal court in August. The suit was a response to the second attempt in recent months by the Jindal administration to shut down funding for Planned Parenthood in the state.
U.S. District Judge John deGravelles granted the order Oct. 18 and ruled Kliebert's office cannot suspend Medicaid payments to Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast (PPGC) for services provided to Medicaid beneficiaries.
The order lasts for 14 days.
"It appears likely that plaintiffs will be able to prove that the attempted terminations against it are motivated and driven, at least in large part, by reasons unrelated to its competence and unique to it," the judge wrote in the 59-page order. “[The court] turns to the uncontested and unquestioned facts—PPGC serves 5,200 poor and needy women, and PPGC has repeatedly been deemed a ‘competent’ provider by the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH)--and honors the public interest in affording these women access to their provider of choice.
"For decades, PPGC has served numerous at-risk individuals and helped DHH combat a host of diseases, and, in the process, become the regular provider of over 5,000 women, including the individual plaintiff. Like its brethren, this court ‘believes vulnerable population[s] should only be uprooted if practically necessary and legally warranted.’”
deGravelles also noted the Baton Rouge Health Center would be at risk of closing without the restraining order.
"The uncontroverted evidence in the record is that [Baton Rouge Health Center] relies to a significant degree on Medicaid reimbursements," he said. "The court finds that if the agreements are terminated, this facility would suffer significant financial loss and might have no choice but to close.”
Jindal says he will keep fighting to defund Planned Parenthood after deGravelles ruling. The governor’s administration plans to "appeal this decision and continue to fight to ensure Planned Parenthood no longer receives taxpayer funding."
Planned Parenthood says there are more than 320,000 women in need of affordable family planning care in Louisiana. Of those women, nearly one in five women is uninsured.
Also, New Orleans and Baton Rouge have some of the highest HIV infection rates of all U.S. cities. New Orleans, in particular, faces some of the nation’s worst health outcomes since Hurricane Katrina hit, with almost 64 percent of residents saying that there are not enough health care services available for uninsured and low-income people in New Orleans. About 23 percent say they have skipped or postponed medical care in the past six months.
Planned Parenthood has two health centers in Louisiana, in New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Each clinic provide patients with reproductive health services including well-woman exams, lifesaving cancer screenings, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, HIV testing and risk reduction counseling, a full range of FDA-approved birth control methods, pregnancy testing and options counseling, and other preventive health services.
A significant proportion of these patients in Louisiana receive this care through Medicaid.