Planned Parenthood billed Medicaid for abortion services, ex-employee claims

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A former Planned Parenthood employee told lawmakers Thursday that she had firsthand knowledge that the organization has billed the federal government for abortion-related ultrasounds and medications, in violation of federal law.

Susan Thayer, who spent 17 years working as a clinic manager for Planned Parenthood in Iowa, told lawmakers Thursday that the group had overbilled Medicaid by about $28 million, reasserting claims that have been the subject of a drawn-out court battle in Iowa.

“Because I had access to the billing system for the whole affiliate, I also know that Planned Parenthood would bill Medicaid for abortion-related services — ultrasounds, office visits, blood tests, medications, and other services that were part of an abortion,” Thayer told the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday.

Thayer was fired from Planned Parenthood in 2008 after making a series of claims related to billing and a practice known as “tele-abortions.” In a formal complaint to the state in 2007, Thayer said the group filed false claims related to “medically unnecessary” birth control pills and abortion-related services, in addition to counting some payments as “donations” to allow clinics to still submit claims.

She also claimed Planned Parenthood was mishandling a teleconferencing system that allowed doctors to dispense abortion pills to women in rural areas.

After multiple back-and-forth appearances, an appeals court in Iowa ruled in fall 2014 that Thayer did not have detailed enough evidence to accuse Planned Parenthood of submitting false claims. It then asked a lower court to reconsider other claims she had made against the group, including those against the tele-abortions.

Thayer again raised those concerns Thursday, telling the committee, “Planned Parenthood cut costs to the bone by performing three abortions on a shoestring budget with little medical involvement.”

A Planned Parenthood spokeswoman told The Des Moines Register then that there is “no merit” to Thayer’s lawsuit. Medical abortions, including those done by teleconference, are legal in Iowa.

“Planned Parenthood is more concerned about its bottom line than the health and safety of women,” Thayer told the committee, which was gathered for its second hearing on Planned Parenthood since the release of undercover videos accusing the group of profiting from the sale of fetal tissue.

The hearing was specifically devoted to “examining abortion procedures and medical ethics” at Planned Parenthood, though it also showed clips from the controversial videos, which have been released throughout the summer.

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