- Associated Press - Thursday, June 30, 2016

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Planned Parenthood facilities in Missouri will continue to receive government funding for women’s health services for a while, despite a new budget provision attempting to stop it.

Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon said Thursday that state officials will eventually implement the budget’s ban on Medicaid money going to organizations that provide abortions. But the prohibition won’t start when the budget takes effect Friday, as Republican lawmakers had intended.

Nixon said the state must first solicit public comments and then get federal approval to change its women’s health program. He said that could take until 2017, and all current providers will continue to be funded until then.

Missouri likely will have a new governor by then. Nixon’s term ends in January, and he is barred by law from seeking re-election.

Republican Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick, who is vice chairman of the House Budget Committee, said Nixon’s decision appears to violate the new budget law.

“If that’s the route they’re going to go, there’s going to be an uproar from the Legislature,” Fitzpatrick said.

Mary Kogut, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, said earlier this week that her organization had received no notice that its state payments would stop and it intends to continue submitting reimbursement claims after the new budget takes effect.

“Today’s action makes clear that Medicaid patients can continue to choose the best provider to meet their reproductive and sexual health needs, including Planned Parenthood,” Kogut said Thursday in a written statement.

Missouri is one 13 states that have acted to prevent at least some public funding from going to health care providers that also perform abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit group that supports abortion rights and tracks state policies.

Courts have blocked some of those measures from taking effect. The federal government also has said states cannot prohibit Medicaid dollars from going to abortion providers for other health care services.

At issue in Missouri is $10.8 million budgeted for family planning services, pregnancy tests, treatment of sexually transmitted diseases and other women’s health services. Of that, $8.3 million was originally to come from the federal government and the rest from the state. But Republican lawmakers sought to get around federal requirements by replacing the federal money entirely with state tax dollars.

Nixon said the funding switch effectively diverted state money that could have been used for education or other programs and was “fiscally irresponsible.”

“Failing to use these federal funds and expending additional state resources is unnecessary and inefficient,” Nixon said in a written statement announcing his gradual approach to implementing the budget restrictions.

Missouri lawmakers modeled their approach on Texas, which cut Planned Parenthood out of its women’s health program in 2013.

The number of women enrolled in the Texas health program fell by 9 percent in 2013 when compared with 2011, and those who received Medicaid-funded services declined by 25 percent, according to a report by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

Elizabeth Nash, a policy analyst at the Guttmacher Institute, predicted Missouri could see similar results.

“It takes some time to untangle the program (from the federal government) and arrange for providers,” Nash said. “If Texas is any example, the program will be much smaller and serve many fewer women.”

Missouri’s program had 73,164 women receiving services as the end of May. It covers uninsured women ages 18 through 55 with incomes of about twice the federal poverty level, or about $23,900 for an individual. It also provides one year of services to new mothers who are losing traditional Medicaid coverage.

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Follow David A. Lieb at: http://twitter.com/DavidALieb

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