Trump administration to consider Tenn. proposal blocking Planned Parenthood from Medicaid

Trump administration to consider Tenn. proposal blocking Planned Parenthood from Medicaid
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The Trump administration will consider a Tennessee proposal to cut Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers from its Medicaid program.

The state's proposal would exclude any organization from its Medicaid program if it performed, operated, maintained or is affiliated with a facility that performed more than 50 abortions in the previous year.

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The administration opened the proposal for public comment on Friday with an end date of Sept. 23. After a review of public comments, the administration will make a decision on the proposal. 

Wendy Long, director of Tennessee's Medicaid program, known as TennCare, submitted the state's request to the Trump administration Aug. 10.

The proposal follows passage of a state law in April banning Medicaid payments to abortion providers. Federal law requires states get approval from the Department of Health and Human Services before implementation, however.

The intention of the proposal, Long said in the application, is to "avoid the direct or indirect use of state funds to promote or support elective abortions." 

Federal law already prohibits the use of federal funding for abortions, but opponents say any money flowing to Planned Parenthood or abortion providers indirectly supports the procedure.

Republican states have taken aim at Planned Parenthood and abortion providers in the past several years. Texas has a similar request pending before the administration.

Opponents of these proposals say they will curb access to family planning services by essentially banning Medicaid beneficiaries from using their benefits at Planned Parenthood, which also provides STD testing, birth control and other services.

“This pushes the harmful and extremist agenda set forth by the Trump-Pence administration," said Francie Hunt, executive director of Tennessee advocates for Planned Parenthood. "Our state has refused to expand Medicaid, which caused 280,000 Tennesseans to go without health care, and we have the second highest amount of hospital closures in the nation. Now is the time to trust patients and provide them with as many qualified health care options as possible, rather than restrict access and limit providers.”

The legality of these proposals has been called into question by abortion-rights supporters, who argue they go against federal law that allows Medicaid beneficiaries to obtain health care from any willing provider.

Federal courts have been divided on the issue, with most siding with abortion-rights groups.

Arkansas is the only state that has successfully cut Planned Parenthood from its Medicaid program.

In January, the Trump administration rescinded Obama-era guidance that warned states against ending Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood and abortion providers. The administration said at the time rescinding the guidance gave states the power to decide what is best for their Medicaid programs.

Many saw the action as mostly symbolic because the administration needs to approve any requests from states to ban abortion providers from Medicaid.

It has not yet done so, despite receiving a request from Texas more than a year ago.