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Planned Parenthood asks for federal help as new Medicaid rules take effect in Missouri

Sarah Kellogg
Yamelsie Rodríguez, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, asked for federal intervention over new rules brought by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services regarding Medicaid eligibility for family planning clinics.

Planned Parenthood is asking the federal government to step in and block new state rules that it says tightens regulations regarding Medicaid funding and targets its family planning clinics through its abortion clinic, which is the only one in the state.

Under rules issued by the Department of Health and Senior Services that went into effect Wednesday, state inspectors must now report any rule violations by family planning clinics directly to the state’s Medicaid auditors within the Department of Social Services. That could then lead to the denial of Medicaid funding for all Planned Parenthood clinics in the state.

Though Medicaid funding in Missouri is not spent on abortions except in extreme emergency circumstances, it does cover other services Planned Parenthood provides, such as cancer screenings and contraceptive services.

Yamelsie Rodríguez, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, said these new rules do not currently affect the services its clinics are providing.

“Our doors are open, and we are providing care to people who rely on Medicaid, and we are also helping enroll new eligible people in the new Medicaid program,” Rodríguez said at a media briefing Wednesday.

Planned Parenthood said that in 2020, more than 6,600 of its patients used Medicaid, and more are expected to as a result of Missouri’s expansion of the program.

The new rules align with recommendations issued by a Republican-led state Senate committee aimed at looking at the state’s Medicaid program and the “protection of unborn life.”

Speaking during a committee meeting in September, Sen. Bill White, the chair of the committee, said the language of the proposed rules fall within Missouri’s constitution, which prohibits the targeting of a specific entity.

“This would apply to any abortion provider in the state, any affiliates and not just to them. The criteria that [we’re] using would be to all agencies of a comparable level,” White said.

However, because Planned Parenthood is currently the only abortion provider in the state, officials said the new rules do target it and are another attempt at barring the organization from Medicaid eligibility.

Rodríguez said the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under the Biden administration is responsible for regulating and enforcing Medicaid rules.

“We call today on the Biden administration to protect every qualified Medicaid provider, including Planned Parenthood,” Rodríguez said.

She said Planned Parenthood also is exploring all legal options regarding the new rules.

Dr. Colleen McNicholas, local chief medical officer for Planned Parenthood, said the rules include a shortened reporting inspection process, in which violations are now reported directly to Medicaid auditors.

“What may spark them to come more frequently or sooner than planned, is now they may want to reach this secondary goal of using the inspection to eliminate Planned Parenthood,” McNicholas said.

She said the clinic is prepared for a state inspection “any day now.” But as far as enforcing the rule, McNicholas said the burden is on the current presidential administration.

“We are going to go back and demand that those same folks at CMS and the Biden administration will again reassess this in that context and will help to clarify that in fact this isn’t a process they will let stand,” McNicholas said.

Follow Sarah Kellogg on Twitter: @sarahkkellogg

Sarah Kellogg is the Missouri Statehouse reporter for St. Louis Public Radio

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