A new Indiana law that sought to block state and federal funding to service providers who perform abortions “unlawfully narrows Medicaid recipients’ choice of qualified providers,” a federal judge ruled on Friday. The Federal District Court in Indianapolis issued a preliminary injunction blocking provisions of the law that would withhold federal Medicaid funds to Planned Parenthood of Indiana (PPI) because it performs abortions. PPI and two of its patients filed suit after the measure took effect on May 10.
State officials maintained they could exclude PPI under their authority to determine who counts as “qualified” Medicaid providers. However, the Obama administration on June 1 refused to approve the changes Indiana wanted to make to the joint federal-state program.
Judge Tanya Walton Pratt ruled that Indiana’s determination of qualified providers cannot be based on factors unrelated to Medicaid services, which exclude abortion except in cases of rape, incest, and to protect the mother’s life.
“States do not have carte blanche to expel otherwise competent Medicaid providers,” Pratt said, citing “some measure of deference” to the administration’s ruling. In addition, “there are no allegations that [PPI] is incompetent or that it provides inappropriate or inadequate care.” Of PPI services, which also include STD and cancer screenings, “only a small percentage” involved abortion, Pratt said.
“The public interest tilts in favor of granting an injunction,” Pratt said. “The federal government has threatened partial or total withholding of federal Medicaid dollars to the State of Indiana, which could total well over $5 billion annually and affect nearly 1 million Hoosiers.” If neither side budges, “Indiana’s most vulnerable citizens could end up paying the price as the collateral damage of a partisan battle,” she said.
Indiana will comply with the injunction but will likely seek review by the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago, state officials said.
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