Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Friday announced that he will terminate the state’s Medicaid contract with Planned Parenthood. As pure political grandstanding, the move was a success: Arkansas Republicans chirped their approval of Hutchinson slapping the hated bogeyman, and both the GOP caucuses in the state House and Senate issued rah-rah press releases. Sen. Tom Cotton too.
The problem is that the maneuver violates federal law. States have tried this before. It’s going nowhere.
Technically, this could end in a standoff between Arkansas (plus Louisiana and Alabama, trying similar stunts) and the federal government. If Arkansas refused to comply with the law, the federal government could end all federal Medicaid funding. That would mean the state would lose billions of federal dollars, not just for the 250,000 Arkansans on the private option, but also the elderly in nursing homes, disabled Arkansans, and children in ARKids. A few legislators have said that this nightmare scenario would be “so great” and “the best news of the year” (in fairness, these lawmakers likely have no understanding of Medicaid funding at all and didn’t realize what they were saying). But realistically, this is not going to happen: even hardliners are not going to bankrupt the state’s health care system — throwing Granny out of the nursing home, Junior out of ARKids,
and disabled Arkansans off of their health insurance in the process — over $50,000 in Planned Parenthood reimbursements. If we actually got to a showdown, the states would have no choice but to cave.
But…we’re not even going to get that far, most likely. What is probably going to happen is that Planned Parenthood is going to sue, get an injunction, and win in court.
We’ve been through this charade, as a good report in the National Journal today details:
But if precedent holds, things need not get that far for Planned Parenthood in Louisiana and Alabama to keep receiving Medicaid money. (Friday, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson directed the state Human Services Department to end its agreement with Planned Parenthood.)
States have made similar defunding attempts before, and when Planned Parenthood sued, they lost in court.
“Medicaid is by far the largest source of family-planning funds in this country, so I guess that would be one reason why you’d want to go after Medicaid, but it just seems that that hasn’t worked,” said Elizabeth Nash, a senior associate at the Guttmacher Institute. “Because it hasn’t been successful, I don’t see why anyone would think it’d be successful.” …
…CMS has thus far avoided having to go to battle with states trying to defund Planned Parenthood. In 2011, Indiana passed a law saying the state cannot fund providers that perform abortions. The next year, Arizona passed a similar law. The state Planned Parenthood branches both challenged the decisions, and both times won in court based on the Medicaid choice of provider provision.
One underrated constituency for state lawmakers like Hutchinson trying to violate the law: lawyers.