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Lawmaker: Bill Does Not Illegally Target Planned Parenthood, Despite Federal Letter

(Photo courtesy of Planned Parenthood)

An Arizona lawmaker said proposed legislation affecting the state’s Medicaid system does not illegally target Planned Parenthood and other providers. That comes in response to a letter this week from the director of the Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services warning states not to do just that.

The letter reiterated that states cannot prevent those with Medicaid from using a provider just because it offers a range of family planning services, including abortions.

Marissa Padilla, a spokesperson for Medicaid, said the letter was prompted by a variety of efforts across the country to limit access to certain providers. 

“In the last year, there are 10 states that have either taken specific actions to terminate a provider, or they are recently considering legislation or have passed legislation that would restrict how Medicaid beneficiaries would receive their services,” she said.

Arizona is among them, Padilla said; however, she can’t comment on specific legislation, namely House Bill 2599 advanced by Republican State Representative Justin Olson of Mesa. His bill lays out a host of reasons, many modeled after existing federal law, for excluding a provider from Medicaid. One is failing to segregate taxpayer dollars from those used for abortion services.

Medicaid does not provide reimbursement for abortions, except in the case of rape, incest or a pregnancy threatening the life of the mother. 

Olson said the legislation simply provides an "enforcement mechanism."

“If they are not using taxpayer dollars to fund abortion, then this bill would not have any impact on them. If they are, then, in fact, they do have something to be worried about,” Olson said. 

But Planned Parenthood argues this legislation is just one more attack and creates vague standards that could be impossible to comply with. The bill is currently making its way through the state legislature. 

Arizona matches 10 cents out of every federal dollar for Medicaid. A 2012 state law sought to exclude a provider that also offers abortions from using that Medicaid money for family planning purposes, but that was eventually overturned by a federal court.

Will Stone grew up with the sounds of public radio. As a senior field correspondent, he strives to tell the same kind of powerful stories that got him into the business — whether that means trudging through some distant corner of the Sonoran Desert or uncovering an unknown injustice right down the street. Since joining the KJZZ newsroom in 2015, he has covered political scandals, fights over the future of energy, and efforts to care for some of Arizona’s most vulnerable communities. His pieces have also aired on national programs like Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Here & Now and Marketplace. Before coming to KJZZ, he reported for public radio stations in Nevada and Connecticut. Stone received his degree in English literature from Haverford College, where he also wrote about the arts and culture scene in Philadelphia. After graduating, he interned at NPR West in Culver City, California, where he learned from some of the network’s veteran reporters and editors. When he doesn’t have a mic in hand, Stone enjoys climbing mountains, running through his central Phoenix neighborhood and shamelessly promoting his cat, Barry.