Oklahoma’s GOP Governor: Use Technicality to Defund Planned Parenthood

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Oklahoma’s GOP Governor: Use Technicality to Defund Planned Parenthood

Jenn Stanley

Gov. Mary Fallin wrote a letter last week to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority calling for the defunding of Planned Parenthood, citing high rates of billing errors.

Oklahoma last week became the latest state to try to defund Planned Parenthood. The state’s Republican Gov. Mary Fallin called for the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to end its contracts with two Planned Parenthood affiliates that she claims have high rates of billing errors.

Fallin’s actions come as many states are pushing to defund Planned Parenthood after the release of the surreptitiously recorded, highly edited videos published by an anti-choice front group called the Center for Medical Progress (CMP). The group has worked with GOP legislators in attacking funding for the health-care organization. State investigations of Planned Parenthood have turned up no wrongdoing.

Fallin wrote a November 18 letter to Nico Gomez, the director of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, calling Planned Parenthood’s billing error rates “alarming.” But Gomez has since told reporters that his office will not take action until its ongoing audit is completed.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, which operates a clinic in Tulsa, called Fallin’s letter, “premature and incredibly disappointing” in a press statement.

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“The findings of these audits are a normal part of the process in reviewing health care reimbursement,” the statement said. “Often, it is simply a matter of submitting additional documentation that supports the request for full Medicaid reimbursement.”

GOP lawmakers in nearby Arkansas and Louisiana have also attempted to cut Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood, but federal judges have blocked these attempts. Ohio’s Republican-led house recently voted to defund Planned Parenthood, though that bill would not affect Medicaid reimbursements.

“We have a joint responsibility to the citizens in Oklahoma to hold providers to high standards that are imposed to allow an entity to receive taxpayer dollars,” Fallin wrote.

Defunding Planned Parenthood would have no effect on patients’ choices for health-care providers in the state, according to Fallin, where she says there are 120 other metropolitan and rural health-care providers. The governor’s office told Rewire that the number comes from the Oklahoma Health Care Authority. 

Community health clinics won’t be able to accommodate all patients in need if Planned Parenthood centers close their doors, as many scholars and health organizations have pointed out. In 103 counties with a health center run by Planned Parenthood, the health care provider “serves all of the women obtaining publicly supported contraceptive services from a safety-net health center,” according to the Guttmacher Institute.

Fallin has a history of anti-choice policies. She signed HB 1721 and HB 1409 into law last spring, which ban D and E abortion procedures and triples the forced waiting period for an abortion from 24 to 72 hours. The longer waiting period went into effect this month, but the D and E ban was blocked by a state court judge in October.

A review of the Oklahoma City and Tulsa affiliates did not show improper use of Medicaid funds, but showed a billing error rate of 20.3 percent at one affiliate and a 14.2 percent error rate at the other, according to the governor’s press release.