A spokeswoman for Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration said yesterday in a statement to The Florida Independent that it believes Florida’s plan to allow Medicaid providers the option of not providing family planning “is in compliance with federal requirements.”

The agency is currently in charge of writing up proposals of Florida’s Medicaid reform program to show the federal government for approval. The agency is not expressing any concerns that the federal government might strike down an opt-out provision for family planning.

This past legislative session, the state Legislature added a provision to its Medicaid overhaul that allows Medicaid providers to choose to not provide family planning services for “moral or religious” reasons, as requested by Florida Catholic Services. The Catholic Church is religiously opposed to offering certain forms of birth control, but is also looking to join Florida’s Medicaid “provider service network.”

This is a move that has concerned family planning advocates in Florida. Judith Selzer, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of South Florida and the Treasure Coast, says this provision violates federal family planning mandates.

“Under the federal Medicaid program, providers are required to offer family planning services to all eligible women enrolled in the program,” she says. “Florida’s Legislature however wants providers to receive Medicaid funds without giving women access to comprehensive family planning services.”

Recently, Indiana’s plans to defund its Planned Parenthood clinics hit a snag when the federal government notified the state that it was breaking federal law.

Medicaid Administrator Donald Berwick told state officials that the plan “will improperly bar Medicaid beneficiaries from receiving services.” Berwick stated, “federal law requires Medicaid beneficiaries to be able to obtain services from any provider qualified to provide services.”

Indiana officials have decided to still move forward with their plans, despite the federal agency’s warning.

Selzer says that changes to Florida’s Medicaid program could affect health care for a lot of women in the state.

“The potential impact of the new measure is far-reaching,” Selzer said, “with over 1.9 million of the 2.9 million recipients enrolled in some form of managed care, including providers affiliated with religious organizations.”

The Agency for Health Care Administration has until August to create a plan to show the federal government.

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