Assembly OKs bill cutting Planned Parenthood reimbursement

February 12, 2016

   

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.

 

Associated Press