McMaster’s or­der to boot Planned Par­ent­hood as Med­i­caid provider

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - News - BY TOM BAR­TON AND MAAYAN SCHECHTER tbar­[email protected]­tate.com [email protected]­tate.com Tom Bar­ton: 803-771- 8304, @tjbar­ton83; Maayan Schechter: 803-771- 8657, @MaayanSche­chter

S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster or­dered the state’s health agency Fri­day to re­move abor­tion providers from its Med­i­caid provider net­work.

Sep­a­rately, the Rich­land Repub­li­can or­dered the state agency to use money it has left over from last year’s bud­get to fill a hole he cre­ated re­cently in the bud­gets of other health clin­ics that serve low­in­come South Carolini­ans.

That hole was cre­ated when McMaster, in an ef­fort to re­move any money for Planned Par­ent­hood from the state’s 2018-19 bud­get, ve­toed al­most $16 mil­lion to pay for health care ser­vices for low-in­come South Carolini­ans.

That bud­get took ef­fect Thurs­day.

“Al­though the state should not con­tract with abor­tion clin­ics for fam­ily plan­ning ser­vices, the state also should not deny South Carolini­ans’ ac­cess to nec­es­sary med­i­cal care and im­por­tant women’s health and fam­ily plan­ning ser­vices,” McMaster said in his or­der Fri­day.

Crit­ics have blasted McMaster’s veto, calling it a po­lit­i­cal stunt aimed at buy­ing votes be­fore he faces Demo­cratic state Rep. James Smith in Novem­ber’s elec­tion.

“As gover­nor, I will un­der­stand the im­pact of my ve­toes be­fore I make them,” said Smith, who won the Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion for gover­nor in June. “I would never play po­lit­i­cal games with the health care of the peo­ple of South Carolina.”

S.C. De­part­ment of Health and Hu­man Serv- ices spokes­woman Colleen Mullis did not re­spond to ques­tions about the ex­ec­u­tive or­der Fri­day.

‘A FIGHT HE’S WILL­ING TO FIGHT’

Ad­vo­cates for low-in­come South Carolini­ans say McMaster’s or­der Fri­day could be chal­lenged in court.

Sue Berkowitz, head of the S.C. Ap­ple­seed Le­gal Jus­tice Cen­ter, said she is glad McMaster will al­low more than 4,000 health care providers ac­cess to money to serve low-in­come South Carolini­ans. “We were con­cerned he was go­ing to be cut­ting off fam­ily plan­ning for ev­ery­one.”

Berkowitz added, “There’s still a huge le­gal is­sue of net­work ad­e­quacy, and you can’t just kick a provider of choice (Planned Par­ent­hood) off. … I feel his ex­ec­u­tive or­der is still in vi­o­la­tion of Med­i­caid laws.”

Ac­cord­ing to fed­eral law, Med­i­caid re­cip­i­ents can choose their health care provider.

While states can re­strict those choices through man­aged care ar­range­ments, they can’t do so for fam­ily plan­ning providers, ac­cord­ing to the non­par­ti­san Cen­ter on Bud­get and Pol­icy Pri­or­i­ties.

McMaster spokesman Brian Symmes told The (Columbia) State news­pa­per on Fri­day that the gover­nor is will­ing to fight to kick Planned Par­ent­hood out of the S.C. Med­i­caid pro­gram.

“The gover­nor has been very clear, for over a year and a half now, that he firmly be­lieves no tax­payer dol­lars should di­rectly or in­di­rectly sub­si­dize abor­tion, and this is an­other step in that direc­tion,” Symmes said. “And it’s a fight he’s will­ing to fight.”

A spokesper­son for the Centers for Medi­care and Med­i­caid Ser­vices, the fed­eral agency that over­sees the joint fed­eral-state Med­i­caid sys­tem, was not im­me­di­ately avail­able for com­ment Fri­day.

‘PUB­LIC HEALTH CON­SE­QUENCES’

A week ear­lier, McMaster ve­toed $16 mil­lion in health care money from the state’s bud­get in an ef­fort to de­fund Planned Par­ent­hood, which re­ceives less than $100,000 of that money, none for abor­tions.

How­ever, the Leg­is­la­ture will not re­turn to Columbia to take up McMaster’s ve­toes un­til Septem­ber.

McMaster’s veto and the loss of state money cre­ated con­fu­sion statewide among health care providers, un­sure about how many low-in­come pa­tients could be af­fected.

A quar­ter of South Carolini­ans — about 1.2 mil­lion of nearly 5 mil­lion — get their health care through Med­i­caid. Roughly 70 per­cent are chil­dren, se­nior cit­i­zens or dis­abled, and 30 per­cent are “other adults,” which in­cludes able-bod­ied adults.

Planned Par­ent­hood — which sees roughly 5,000 men, women and young adults a year — gets a small sliver of state and fed­eral tax dol­lars to cover non­abor­tion ser­vices, in­clud­ing birth con­trol and test­ing for sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted dis­eases.

In 2017, the abor­tion provider’s two clin­ics, in Columbia and in Charleston, got less than $85,000 of the $42 mil­lion paid out to Med­i­caid providers, ac­cord­ing to the state Of­fice of Rev­enue and Fis­cal Af­fairs. None of this money went to pay for abor­tions, ex­cept in cases of rape, in­cest or when a woman’s life was in danger — all cov­ered by fed­eral law.

Cut­ting Planned Par­ent­hood from the state’s Med­i­caid net­work could re­sult in more un­wanted S.C. preg­nan­cies, said Sarah Riddle, spokes­woman for Planned Par­ent­hood South At­lantic.

“We’ve seen that states that have re­stricted or ex­cluded Planned Par­ent­hood’s par­tic­i­pa­tion from their Med­i­caid pro­grams have suf­fered dis­as­trous pub­lic health con­se­quences,” she said.

When Texas elim­i­nated Planned Par­ent­hood from its fam­ily plan­ning pro­gram, the Univer­sity of Texas at Austin found that women had re­duced ac­cess to the full range of con­tra­cep­tive meth­ods and ex­pe­ri­enced higher rates of un­in­tended preg­nan­cies.

Also, women lost ac­cess to affordable re­pro­duc­tive health care, ei­ther be­cause there were no other providers in their com­mu­nity or be­cause other clin­ics could not serve all of Planned Par­ent­hood’s pa­tients, Riddle said.

C. RUSH on­[email protected]­tate.com

Planned Par­ent­hood’s clin­ics in Columbia and in Charleston got less than $85,000 of the $42 mil­lion paid out to Med­i­caid providers last year, ac­cord­ing to the state Of­fice of Rev­enue and Fis­cal Af­fairs.

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