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Hearing Officer Holds Against Indiana Law

by | Jul 9, 2012

By Dave Andrusko

Indiana’s efforts to deny state-directed funding to businesses and organizations performing abortions has run into a buzzsaw. But there is no sign the state is giving up on its 2011 law.

The latest hit came Friday. The state had asked the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to reconsider its June 2011 ruling in which it found changes in Indiana’s Medicaid plan to be unacceptable.

But a federal Hearing Officer, Benjamin Cohen, recommended that the CMS uphold its initial decision to reject Indiana’s law which is intended to route family planning monies to ethical alternatives such as local hospitals and health centers.

The Indiana law, Cohen wrote, “violated the federal requirement that individuals must have the freedom to obtain care from any qualified provider,” the Associated Press reported. “Restricting that choice just because a care provider also offers non-covered care isn’t allowed, he wrote.”

In a statement the Indiana attorney general’s office said it may contest the recommendation. In addition the AG’s office has already appealed federal Judge Tanya Walton Pratt’s June 24, 2011, decision to grant Planned Parenthood a temporary injunction blocking the law to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. The court has not yet ruled.

The judicial, legislative, and administrative back and forths are mind-numbingly complicated.

Indiana Gov. Gov. Mitch Daniels signed the bill into law May 10, 2011, which triggered a legal suit by Planned Parenthood of Indiana.

Then-Medicare and Medicaid Administrator Donald Berwick wrote Patricia Cassanova, the director of Indiana’s office of Medicaid Policy and Planning, that the CMS would not approve changes to Indiana’s Medicaid plan because “Medicaid programs may not exclude qualified health care providers from providing services that are funded under the program because of a provider’s scope of practice.”  He added, “Such a restriction would have a particular effect on beneficiaries’ ability to access family planning providers.”

Berwick said Indiana had 60 days from June 1 to appeal the decision which brought the law before Judge Pratt.

Indiana Solicitor General Thomas Fisher wrote in a brief that the law “is not targeted at managed care organizations, nor is it directed at family planning choice,” adding, “It is targeted at preventing indirect subsidy of abortions, which Congress expressly excludes as a form of ‘family planning’ payable by Medicaid.”

Meanwhile Cohen’s 25-page decision came at almost the same time the Obama administration sent a family planning grant of $395,000 to a Planned Parenthood  in Memphis, Tennessee.  “This end run around the people of Tennessee will serve to underscore the urgent need to elect a pro-life president, Senate and Congress in November,” Brian Harris, president of Tennessee Right to Life, said last week.

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Categories: Abortion Funding