Indiana: Medicaid patients' choice not unlimited

June 24, 2011

Medicaid patients don't have unlimited rights to choose medical providers, the state of Indiana said Friday in defending its decision to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood because it offers abortions.

Planned Parenthood and the federal government have said the state's action limits Medicaid recipients' health care options, but the state insisted it is just enforcing federal rules that restrict funding for the procedure.

The state's arguments came in response to a June 16 U.S. Justice Department brief siding with Planned Parenthood in its request for a court order blocking as unconstitutional a tough new Indiana abortion law that disqualifies Planned Parenthood of Indiana from the Medicaid program because it provides the procedure.

In its 17-page response, Indiana argued states have the same power to deny Medicaid payments to providers as the federal government. It also said the law mirrors federal restrictions on abortion funding in most cases.

"Even if States may not directly target free choice as such, they may incidentally burden free choice with restrictions aimed at other, legitimate objectives," the state said.

Planned Parenthood of Indiana has been without Medicaid funding since the law took effect May 10. The group stopped seeing Medicaid patients this week after private donations that had paid those patients' bills ran out.

U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt has said she intends to rule by July 1.

Justice Department attorneys said Pratt should grant Planned Parenthood's request for an injunction because the law restricts Medicaid recipients' freedom to choose their health care provider.

Pratt gave Planned Parenthood until 6 p.m. Friday to file its own response to the expected state brief.


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