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Planned Parenthood, patient sue over SC Gov. McMaster Medicaid order

Planned Parenthood South Atlantic and a patient filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court on Friday asking a judge to reverse Gov. Henry McMaster’s July order that booted the health care provider from the state’s Medicaid provider network.

The suit was filed against Joshua Baker, head of the S.C. Department of Health and Human Services, the agency that oversees the state’s Medicaid program.

In a statement, Planned Parenthood South Atlantic said the July 13 order has forced Planned Parenthood to cease providing health care services to S.C. Medicaid patients. Planned Parenthood has clinics in Columbia and Charleston.

McMaster’s order terminated Planned Parenthood’s ability to seek Medicaid reimbursements for providing health care services — for example, birth control and testing for sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV — to the state’s poorest women and men.

“The women and men who come to Planned Parenthood for health care aren’t doing so to make a political statement,” Jenny Black, CEO of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, said in a statement.

“They choose to come to us because we are the provider they know and trust for compassionate, quality, affordable care.”

The state’s Health and Human Services Department said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.

But McMaster’s spokesman Brian Symmes told The State newspaper the Columbia Republican plans to “fight this lawsuit with everything he has.”

“Like millions of South Carolinians, he (McMaster) believes in the fundamental right to life for unborn children and does not believe tax dollars should go to organizations that perform elective abortions,” Symmes said Friday.

McMaster’s July order followed his veto of almost $16 million in health care money from the state’s 2018-19 budget in an effort to defund Planned Parenthood. In the past two years, Planned Parenthood has received less than $85,000 in Medicaid reimbursements.

With his order, McMaster told the state’s Medicaid agency to use its leftover money from last year’s budget to cover health care services for more than 4,000 providers — except Planned Parenthood — that were affected by his budget veto.

Critics warned McMaster — who is running against Democratic state Rep. James Smith for S.C. governor in November — that his order violates federal Medicaid laws since Planned Parenthood performs health care services, not just abortions.

Federal law bans clinics from using tax money to perform abortions, except in cases of rape, incest or if a mother’s life is endangered.

“Now the governor has dug us into a legal hole with his executive order. There’s no excuse for that,” Smith told The State newspaper Friday.

As governor, Smith added, “I wouldn’t lead us into expensive, unwinnable lawsuits.”

Representing the plaintiffs are Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Malissa Burnette and Kathleen McDaniel of Burnette Shutt & McDaniel PA.

“We trust the court will stand with South Carolinians who are most in need of access to affordable health care,” Planned Parenthood’s Black said.

Tom Barton contributed to this story. Maayan Schechter: 803-771-8657, @MaayanSchechter
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