Planned Parenthood is scaling a full-fledged attack on a provision in Florida’s Medicaid bill that allows providers to opt-out of providing family planning services. The organization is sending volunteers to public hearings and petitioning the Agency for Health Care Administration (aka AHCA) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (aka CMS) to strike out the provision.

AHCA, the state agency in charge of presenting Florida’s Medicaid overhaul to the federal government for approval, has been holding public hearings all over the state. So far, public support for the state’s plans is not there. Concern over an absent medical loss ratio is among the bigger complaints.

One of the little-reported and little-discussed provisions in the Medicaid bill was brought up in both the West Palm Beach and Miami public hearings. The provision allows Medicaid providers to choose to not provide family planning services on “moral or religious grounds.” The provision was added at the request of Catholic Services, which is looking to become a Medicaid provider.

Judith Selzer, a spokeswoman for a Planned Parenthood affiliate in Florida, notes that there is no provision in the bill that makes sure there is at least one provider of family planning in every region. So there is a likelihood that some women on Medicaid may not have access to proper birth control, cervical cancer screening, and other services.

Family planning, though, is a federally mandated service. Even in Florida’s Medicaid Reform Pilot (which has been active in a few counties in Florida), family planning is listed as a “mandatory service.” Furthermore, there is a waiver program in the pilot that allows women to receive family planning services even if they do not meet the requirements for becoming Medicaid beneficiaries.

Selzer says that the state Legislature and governor’s focus this year on rolling back abortion rights and cutting health programs in the budget show that women’s health is not a priority to them.

“Their intent has been very clear,” Selzer says.

If AHCA moves forward with the Legislature’s plans, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services would have the final say in whether the state can move forward with that provision. Organizations and individuals can petition CMS to strike it down.

Recently, CMS ordered state officials in Indiana to not defund Planned Parenthood clinics because it would reduce access to family planning for Medicaid beneficiaries.

Selzer told the Independent today that Planned Parenthood plans to petition both CMS and AHCA to strike the provision.

AHCA has said that the law’s rules are “in compliance with federal requirements.” The agency has until Aug. 1 to finalize its proposal for the federal government.

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