The state of Indiana has passed a law making changes to Indiana Medicaid, including banning funding to Planned Parenthood. As we know, very little of what Planned Parenthood does is abortion related (3% from the Planned Parenthood 2008-9 annual report), so the effect of this change is to deny basic healthcare services to many women. In fact, according to the Guttmacher Institute, Planned Parenthood and other family planning centers are the primary or even exclusive sources of health care for many women.
The Obama administration is pushing back. HHS sent a letter to Indiana informing them that their plan will improperly bar beneficiaries from receiving services. Specifically, Medicaid Administrator Donald M. Berwick wrote, “Medicaid programs may not exclude qualified health care providers from providing services that are funded under the program because of a provider’s scope of practice.” If Indiana chooses to continue down this path, then the federal government could conceivable cut off all Medicaid funding to Indiana.
Obama has shown time after time that he is not willing to stand firm on any issues and is always looking to find a compromise, but my fervent desire is that he will decide to use this case to break that pattern. I know that many people will be harmed if Medicaid is shut down temporarily in Indiana, but every time he caves in to these right wing wackoes, many other people are harmed and the wackoes are encouraged to come up with even more harmful plans. This is a heartless numbers game of picking your stands where they do the least harm. In this particular case, Obama can stand firm against a bad idea and limit the damage to one state. He should be able to sell it as yet another republican attack on Medicaid since that is exactly what this is.
Indiana has 60 days to appeal, but so far they haven’t shown much interest in changing their law. We will monitor this one over the summer and update it as new changes occur.