- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 4, 2016

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Two Planned Parenthood affiliates filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday over a decision by Kansas to cut off Medicaid reimbursements to the abortion provider that was largely based on allegations lodged against its affiliates in other states.

The lawsuit filed by the Planned Parenthood affiliate for Kansas and Mid-Missouri and another for the St. Louis region came only a day after the state Department of Health and Environment sent a letter to the Kansas and Mid-Missouri organization that its Medicaid funding would be cut off as of next week.

Documents obtained by The Associated Press through an open records request show that KDHE first informed the affiliate in March that it planned to end its status as a Medicaid provider. The group had the right to challenge the decision and an administrative hearing was held last week, without overturning it.

A March 10 letter from a state official cited a dispute over an inspection of clinic in Overland Park, but also noted allegations lodged against affiliates in Oklahoma and Texas. Federal courts have blocked attempts to cut off Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood in other states, including Arkansas, Arizona, Indiana, Louisiana and Utah.

“All of the grounds for the termination for Medicaid are entirely bogus and unfounded,” said Laura McQuade, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback is a Republican and vocal abortion opponent, and the state already has blocked the state’s Planned Parenthood affiliate from receiving about $370,000 a year in federal family planning dollars for non-abortion services.

Spokeswoman Cassie Sparks said the state health department has not seen the lawsuit. The governor’s office did not respond to it, but earlier in the day, spokeswoman Eileen Hawley said Brownback pushed to cut off Medicaid funds for Planned Parenthood “to protect the unborn and support a culture of life.”

Federal courts have blocked attempts to cut off Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood in other states, including Arkansas, Arizona, Indiana, Louisiana and Utah.

Kansas is giving several reasons for cutting off the Kansas-Mid Missouri affiliate. The St. Louis affiliate is involved in the lawsuit because it has a Joplin, Missouri, clinic that sees a few Kansas Medicaid participants.

The lawsuit was filed in the federal district court for Kansas against Susan Mosier, the health department’s secretary.

Attorneys also filed the lawsuit for a doctor and four nurses who work for Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri; six nurses and nurse-midwives who formerly worked for the affiliates and three unnamed Kansas patients. The medical personnel also were cut off from the Medicaid program.

The health department official’s March 10 letter cited videos secretly recorded and released last year by an anti-abortion group that show Planned Parenthood officials elsewhere talking about the handling of fetal tissues. The letter said Kansas-Mid-Missouri organization is affiliated with the national one and “abides by the medical and operational standards of the national organization.”

National Planned Parenthood officials contend the videos were selectively edited as part of a smear campaign, and the lawsuit calls them “discredited.” Brownback last year directed the state Board of Healing Arts to investigate whether commercial fetal tissue sales were occurring in Kansas, then accused Planned Parenthood publicly of “trafficking” in “baby body parts.”

The Kansas-Mid Missouri affiliate doesn’t have a program for legal fetal tissue donations, and an attorney for the Kansas medical board said in a January letter that no action would be taken. Two anti-abortion activists involved in the videos have been indicted on criminal charges in Texas.

Planned Parenthood has clinics in Overland Park and Wichita. The Overland Park clinic performs abortions, but the group has said Medicaid funds only cover services such as health exams, family planning services, and breast and cervical cancer screenings and treatment.

The lawsuit said the Kansas and Mid-Missouri affiliate serves between 450 and 500 Kansas Medicaid patients. The group has said it received about $61,000 in reimbursements for the state fiscal year ending with June 2015.

The March 10 letter also cited concerns about Medicaid claims and overbilling raised publicly in November by Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, another anti-abortion Republican. Oklahoma plans to cut off Medicaid funds to two Planned Parenthood affiliates June 29.

Also, according to last month’s letter, the Overland Park clinic refused in December to let the department complete an inspection of its handling of solid waste. But the letter acknowledged that Planned Parenthood cited concerns about patients’privacy. Sparks said the inspection was completed in January.

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Follow John Hanna on Twitter at https://twitter.com/apjdhanna .

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