- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 7, 2015

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Planned Parenthood is contesting the new approach Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration has taken to remove it from Louisiana’s Medicaid program.

The organization amended a previously filed lawsuit in federal court Wednesday to keep the state Department of Health and Hospitals from ending its Medicaid provider agreements.

Jindal, running for the Republican presidential nomination, had initially sought to oust Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast’s clinics in Baton Rouge and New Orleans without providing a reason. The administration said state law allowed cancellation with a 30-day notice.

A federal judge questioned that reasoning after Planned Parenthood and three of its patients filed a lawsuit, asking to stop the Jindal administration’s effort.

The Jindal administration then changed course. The health department said it was blocking Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast’s clinics for cause, citing the organization’s $4.3 million settlement of false-claims allegations in Texas as reason to end its Louisiana Medicaid contract. DHH asked Planned Parenthood to dismiss its lawsuit.

In response, Planned Parenthood revised its complaint in federal court Wednesday, saying the Jindal administration’s effort is still illegal and its arguments not valid for blocking the organization from Medicaid.

“Each ground is baseless and unsupported as a matter of fact and law, and not one relates to (Planned Parenthood’s) competence to provide services in Louisiana’s Medicaid program,” the organization says in its amended lawsuit.

Without intervention from U.S. District Judge John deGravelles, Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood will end on Oct. 17 and 18, according to the court documents.

Planned Parenthood says 5,200 low-income Medicaid patients obtain services through their two Louisiana clinics. The organization doesn’t currently provide abortions in Louisiana, but does offer other health services, such as cancer screenings and gynecological exams.

Health department spokeswoman Olivia Watkins Hwang said in a statement the agency was reviewing the filing from Planned Parenthood. But she added: “The department’s position on Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast has not changed. We will continue to pursue the termination of their Medicaid provider status.”

In August 2013, a Texas U.S. attorney’s office announced a civil settlement with Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast in response to allegations the organization billed government programs for services that weren’t medically necessary or that weren’t provided.

Planned Parenthood didn’t admit guilt in the settlement. But the Jindal administration said Louisiana regulations deem the settlement agreement a violation of state Medicaid provider rules. Melissa Flournoy, Louisiana state director of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, called the administration’s actions politically motivated.

Republicans around the country have targeted Planned Parenthood after several videos were released by the anti-abortion Center for Medical Progress. The center said the videos showed that Planned Parenthood illegally sells fetal tissue for profit. Planned Parenthood has said the organization receives legal payment only for the cost of the procedure and requires a mother’s consent before the tissue is given to researchers.

Jindal cited the videos when he said he wanted to take Medicaid funding away from the organization.

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