Planned Parenthood calls new Missouri Medicaid rules 'discriminatory,' wants federal intervention

Galen Bacharier
Springfield News-Leader

Planned Parenthood is asking the Biden administration to step in to block new Missouri regulations that took effect Wednesday, calling the rules a "regulatory scheme" that were being "weaponized" to deny low-income patients health care access.

Issued by the Department of Health and Senior Services last week after recommendations by lawmakers, the regulations allow DHSS and the Department of Social Services, which oversees Missouri's Medicaid program, to share information on health inspections and potentially bar Planned Parenthood from Medicaid.

The organization, which operates the only abortion clinic in St. Louis and other health centers throughout the state (including one in Springfield), is "exploring all of (its) legal options" and asking federal authorities to intervene, leaders said on a call with reporters Wednesday.

"We call today on the Biden administration to protect every qualified Medicaid provider, including Planned Parenthood," said Yamelsie Rodríguez, president and CEO for Planned Parenthood of St. Louis and Southwest Missouri. "The truth is, none of this is really about Planned Parenthood. It's about politicians desperately grasping for control over marginalized communities who are rising up and reclaiming their voice, their power and their lives."

The Department of Health and Senior Services and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

Medicaid in Missouri:State issues new abortion facility rules, aiming to cut Planned Parenthood

Rule impacts on Missouri Planned Parenthoods

Planned Parenthood officials called the rules discriminatory in that they "single out" their clinics and patients, 6,600 of which relied on Medicaid to access their services in 2020, Rodríguez said. That number of patients is likely to increase with the state actively expanding Medicaid and approving new applications. Rodríguez said it was "no coincidence that this attack comes" during that process.

Medicaid funds, which come from the federal government, are not used on abortions except in cases where the mother's life is in danger. As a result, the new rules won't significantly impact the Reproductive Health Services clinic in St. Louis, which performs abortions — but they could hamper the other clinics that provide health screenings, STI testing and provide birth control to patients, many of whom fall under Medicaid. 

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Possible impacts on health care in Missouri

The abortion advocates also stressed that the new regulations could put Missouri in trouble with federal authorities, potentially jeopardizing its Medicaid funding and echoing concerns of Democratic lawmakers during previous committee hearings. Michelle Trupiano, executive director of the Missouri Family Health Council, told reporters the issue could have a "devastating impact" on health care access in the state.

"After years of underfunding and budget cuts, Missouri's health care safety net system is already stretched too thin," Trupiano said. "They cannot handle additional provider losses. The need for publicly funded family planning services already outweighs the capacity of our current safety net providers."

Colleen McNicholas, chief medical officer at Reproductive Health Services in St. Louis, said the clinic was expecting more scrutiny under the new rules, and is prepared for a "surprise visit any day now" from inspectors.

Previously:Missouri lawmakers to urge state to tighten Medicaid rules, targeting Planned Parenthood

Galen Bacharier covers Missouri politics & government for the News-Leader. Contact him at gbacharier@news-leader.com, (573) 219-7440 or on Twitter @galenbacharier.