MADISON — Republicans moved
within a step Thursday of cutting millions of dollars from
Planned Parenthood, pushing a bill that would limit Medicaid
reimbursements for certain family planning clinics through
the state Assembly and on to Gov. Scott Walker.
The bill would require
clinics that participate in a federal program that allows
them to purchase prescription drugs at reduced cost to bill
Medicaid only for the actual acquisition costs and
dispensing fees for birth control drugs. The change would
cost Planned Parenthood an estimated $4.5 million per year.
Democrats railed against the
bill, contending it unfairly targets Planned Parenthood in
the hopes of scoring political points going into campaign
season. They also said the bill would restrict access to
birth control because Planned Parenthood won't be able to
afford to continue supplying it.
"(The bill is) partisan,
political and completely unnecessary," said Rep.
Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point. "All this bill will
do is put women's health at risk."
Republicans countered that
they're trying to save taxpayers money and accused Planned
Parenthood of overbilling Medicaid for drugs.
"Let's not kid
ourselves. Birth control is available at Target, at
Walgreens across the street, all around," said Rep.
Janel Brandtjen, R-Menomonee Falls. "I love families. I
love women. ... This is about saving $4.5 million that has
been overcharged for years to citizens of this state."
A state Department of Health
Services fiscal estimate attached to the bill found the
measure could save the Medicaid program as much as $9
million in annual reimbursements.
Debate went on for an hour
and 15 minutes. In the end, the Assembly passed the bill
61-35. Senate Republicans passed it last month. It now goes
to Walker for his signature. Walker's spokeswoman didn't
immediately respond to an email inquiring about whether the
governor supports the bill.
Nicole Safar, government
relations director for Planned Parenthood Advocates of
Wisconsin, said in an email to The Associated Press that the
organization has been billing Medicaid appropriately. She
said Planned Parenthood's opponents are spreading lies in
hopes of tarnishing the organization.
The bill is part of a
three-sided package of legislation Republicans introduced
after videos showing a Planned Parenthood medical director
in southern California meeting with people posing as
potential buyers of intact fetal specimens. National Planned
Parenthood officials have said the videos were misleadingly
edited as part of a smear campaign, saying a handful of its
clinics provided fetal tissue for research while receiving
only permissible reimbursement for costs.
The second bill attempts to
prevent Planned Parenthood from being eligible for federal
Title X grant money. Planned Parenthood is currently the
only recipient of that grant money, which can't be used for
abortions but can be used for other family planning services
and wellness screenings. Under the bill, abortion providers
couldn't get any money; the grants instead would go to the
state's Well Woman program, which provides breast and
cervical cancer screenings, and local health departments.
The Assembly passed that
measure in September with the Senate following suit in
January. Walker has yet to sign it, though.
The third bill would prohibit
research using tissue taken from aborted fetuses. That bill
has stalled in both houses after researchers warned the
prohibition would chill work on potentially life-saving
cures and Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the state's
largest business group and usually a staunch GOP ally, came
out against the measure. It's unclear if the bill will come
up for a vote, and time is running out; Assembly Speaker
Robin Vos has said he wants the chamber to finish its work
for the two-year legislative session by next week.