Health law

Arkansas can block Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood, 8th Circuit rules

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Arkansas can block Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood, the St. Louis-based 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled (PDF) on Wednesday.

The Associated Press, Reuters and The Hill had the story.

The 2-1 ruling lifted an injunction issued last year by a federal judge that blocked Arkansas from cutting off funds to the nonprofit. In 2015, Gov. Asa Hutchinson terminated the organization’s contract with Medicaid over videos secretly shot by the Center for Medical Progress, an anti-abortion group that claimed Planned Parenthood was illegally selling fetal tissue for profit. A grand jury investigating the allegations cleared Planned Parenthood.

In its finding, the majority found that the three plaintiffs’ claim doesn’t have merits because the Medicaid Act does not create a federal right for individual patients under Section 1983, which provides a cause of action against any person who deprives a citizen of rights secured by U.S. law.

“Even where a subsidiary provision includes mandatory language that ultimately benefits individuals, a statute phrased as a directive to a federal agency typically does not confer enforceable federal rights on the individuals,” U.S. Circuit Judge Steven Colloton wrote for the majority. A dissent written by Judge Michael J. Melloy noted that four other circuits have found private right of enforcement exists, citing recent opinions from 5th Circuit, 6th Circuit, 7th Circuit and 9th Circuit.

Hutchinson praised the ruling.

“The decision allows the state to proceed with the termination of Planned Parenthood as a Medicaid provider,” he said in a statement. “This is a substantial legal victory for the right of the state to determine whether Medicaid providers are acting in accordance with best practices and affirms the prerogative of the state to make reasoned judgments on the Medicaid program.”

In the fiscal year before Hutchinson terminated Planned Parenthood’s contract, the organization received $51,000 in Medicaid funds from the state, the AP reports. Planned Parenthood has two Arkansas locations.

Raegan McDonald-Mosley, chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement published by Reuters that the fight “is not over.”

“We will do everything in our power to protect our patients’ access to birth control, cancer screenings, and other lifesaving care,” she said.

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