A lawsuit in Texas seeks to demand that Planned Parenthood reimburse millions of dollars in Medicaid payments for health services and even more money in fines.
A hearing was set for Tuesday before U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk as the state seeks to recover at least $17 million from the nation’s largest abortion provider, according to the Associated Press. Earlier this year, Kacsmaryk struck down the FDA’s approval of mifepristone, an abortion pill.
The case against Planned Parenthood does not focus on abortion, which has been banned in Texas with exceptions for risk to the life of the mother since the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade last year.
Planned Parenthood says the lawsuit is another effort to weaken the organization after years of Republican laws that have withdrawn funding and restricted the operation of its clinics.
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The organization received money for health services before being removed from the Texas Medicaid program in 2021. The state had started trying to remove Planned Parenthood four years earlier and is now seeking reimbursement for services billed during this period.
“This baseless case is an active effort to shut down Planned Parenthood Health Centers,” said Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Alexis McGill Johnson.
Texas sued under the federal False Claims Act, which allows fines for each alleged improper payment. According to Planned Parenthood, this could result in a judgment of over $1 billion.
The lawsuit was filed last year by Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is temporarily suspended from office pending an impeachment trial next month over allegations of bribery and abuse of power.
Last year, Paxton said it was “unthinkable that Planned Parenthood would continue to enjoy funding knowing they had no right to keep it”.
Planned Parenthood has about three dozen clinics in Texas, but one closed following the landmark SCOTUS ruling that allowed states to make their own abortion access laws.
Former federal prosecutor Jacob Elberg, who specializes in health care fraud, said he thinks the Texas case is weak, adding that federal misrepresentation law is the most powerful tool in the fight. the state against health fraud.
Other cases involving this law in recent years have been against a health records company in Florida, which paid $45 million to resolve allegations of mis-selling, and a health clinic in Montana which submitted false declarations of asbestos.
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Elberg, now faculty director of the Center for Health & Pharmaceutical Law at Seton Hall Law School, said it was difficult to understand how Planned Parenthood was knowingly filing false claims as he fought in court to stay in the program and that Texas was still paying the refunds.
“It’s just not what the False Claims Act is supposed to be,” Elberg said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.