I noted the dog-and-pony show arranged recently at the Capitol by the demagoguic evangelist who represents Conway in the state Senate, Jason Rapert. He proposed to block federal money for programs aimed at fighting sexually transmitted diseases in Arkansas because the programs were provided by the Arkansas affiliate of Planned Parenthood.
Rapert was going to bring in an anti-abortion warrior from Iowa, a former Planned Parenthood employee, who was going to talk about her allegations of fraudulent Medicaid billing practices there. She was unable to make it, but that didn’t stop Rapert from commandeering the newsprint acreage he craved and to bray later on Twitter about his campaign against Planned Parenthood. He hates it because it provides a full range of medical services for women — general health services, birth control pills, emergency contraception following unprotected (and sometimes unwanted) intercourse and, yes, abortions (though not with public money).
By the time Rapert put on his little media circus, state and federal officials had already found no ground to pursue the claims made by the Iowa crusader (though the mere allegation was enough in the limited mind of Jason Rapert to block funding for unrelated purposes to an Arkansas agency with no direct connection to the Iowa program except through a shared corporate parent.)
A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit that alleged that Planned Parenthood’s affiliate that operates in Iowa had defrauded Medicaid of almost $28 million.
The lawsuit was filed in March 2011 by Susan Thayer, a former Planned Parenthood clinic director from Storm Lake. It was sealed for 16 months to give state and federal authorities time to decide whether to bring criminal charges, which they declined to do.
The original lawsuit alleged that the nonprofit Planned Parenthood of the Heartland illegally billed Medicaid for services related to elective abortions. Elective abortions, defined as abortions in which the mother’s life is not threatened, are not covered by Medicaid under federal and state law. The document also claimed that Planned Parenthood “unbundled” services related to elective abortions — such as blood pressure tests, blood tests and other procedures — and billed those to Medicaid, but not the actual abortions.
A ruling filed Friday by U.S. District Judge John Jarvey says Thayer’s lawsuit did not identify “a single example” of a specific fraudulent claim.
Thayer, an abortion opponent who believes life begins at conception, worked at Planned Parenthood in Storm Lake for nearly 17 years before her job was eliminated amid budget cutbacks. Thayer said she believes her stance against so-called telemedicine abortions, in which doctors remotely dispense pregnancy-terminating drugs to clients via an online video connection, led to her dismissal.
In a news release, Jill June, president of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, said, “We are happy the Court dismissed the allegations made by Ms. Thayer with prejudice, recognizing the lack of substance in the complaint.”
Being Jason Rapert means never having to say you’re sorry.
UPDATE: Rapert responds on Twitter in his customary fashion. He changes the subject. He avoids the utter repudiation of his star witness from Iowa and points instead to Oklahoma, where a federal judge has said it was legal to stop funding a nutrition program for women, infants and children administered by Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood believes, with good justification given the Oklahoma legislature, that it was punished for political reasons. But the federal judge said PP didn’t present sufficient proof of Oklahoma’s political intent (you need not state your real motivation to hit an unpopular agency; just as Rapert is trying to do in Arkansas.) But it’s worth noting what the judge DID say about the pretext Oklahoma used and which Rapert tossed around as evidence of foul deeds in his legislative Elmer Gantry-style tent revival in Arkansas:
The judge said Planned Parenthood’s performance shortfalls – mostly drops in caseload – did not themselves seem to be problems that could lead to a cut in ties.
“But a routine, solvable problem can become a justifiable basis for strong action when it is compounded by persistent unresponsiveness in addressing the challenge,” Friot wrote in his decision.
Losing the contract will force Planned Parenthood to close one of its three clinics in Tulsa, according to Penny Dickey, the organization’s chief operating officer
Back to Iowa, from the opinion, not that facts matter to Rapert’s blind faith:
Notably, Thayer’s 126-paragraph Second Amended Complaint fails to provide a single specific example of a particular fraudulent claim Planned Parenthood submitted to the government, let alone any representative examples. It fails to identify any particular false claim submitted to the government, any particular date on which Planned Parenthood committed fraud, any particular patient related to fraudulent claims, any particular instance in which regulations were violated, any particular caretaker who falsely reported information, or any particular claim that the government wrongly paid. Even after Planned Parenthood’s motion to dismiss challenged the Second Amended Complaint’s specificity, Thayer’s resistance failed to proffer any additional, specific instances of Planned Parenthood’s alleged fraud. Instead, Thayer’s resistance merely restates truncated versions of the “four fraud schemes” discussed in the Second Amended Complaint.