Sunday, October 19, 2008

HHS Finally Responds to our Charges that Take Charge program is just Planned Parenthood Boondoggle

Readers of this blog know that we have called repeated attention to the state program known as Take Charge. This program is the single greatest reason that Planned Parenthood (PP) has doubled its revenues, profits, clients, and clinics in Washington State in the last eight years. And as such, it is the greatest single contributor to PP's 11%-a-year increase in abortions.

The program is easy to understand: it simply increases the number of people eligible for free (aka Medicaid-funded) birth control. The idea is that by getting more women on birth control, the number of unwanted pregnancies will decline, and then the number of Medicaid-paid births -- which are very expensive -- should go down. Taxpayers are supposed to save money, and there are supposed to be fewer abortions.

The program is an experiment, originally funded for 5 years in 2001, then extended for 3 more years, and comes up for renewal in 2009. It's part of a set of similar experiments governments do to see if Medicaid costs can be reduced. The Washington State program has occurred entirely under the Bush Administration, and Planned Parenthood of Western Washington (PPWW) has seen their annual revenues skyrocket from about $17 million to near $35 million, despite the group's simultaneously monotonous yet shrill declarations of George W. Bush's "war on women".

Planned Parenthood jumped at the opportunity to be the primary agency for delivering this birth control, and has been reaping millions of dollars in extra revenues from the approximately 150,000 Take Charge clients in Western Washington alone.

Half of all WA Births Paid for by Medicaid, since Take Charge began

Unfortunately, in addition to making PP fantastically wealthy, it also seems to have had the opposite results of what was intended. When the program began, the state was paying out $200 million a year for childbirth services under Medicaid. That figure has shot up 50%, to $300 million. The goal was to reduce that number. Put another way, the percentage of births paid for by Medicaid in Washington before the program was just over 40%. Now it is almost 50%.

We have contacted state and federal bureaucrats responsible for this program to confront them with the numbers showing its failure and terrible side-effects. After months of phone calls and emails, we were lead to Dr. Herb Kuhn (pictured right), Acting Director of the Center for Medicaid Studies, in Washington DC, in the Bush Administration's Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), under Secretary Michael Levitt.

Back in the Spring we sent Dr. Kuhn a detailed report, including graphs, outlining all the numbers in detail. Only after several reminders was a response received, a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, that response was extremely disappointing, and indicates once again a failure by the bureaucracy to show any concern as to the actual effects of their policies, not to mention a lack of concern for their stewardship of taxpayers’ money.

Acknowledges Concerns of PP Medicaid Fraud

Most of the letter was "boilerplate" repetition of known policy and accepted facts.

We will continue to press this issue aggressively and make the proper authorities defend this failed program. It's our view that the only reason this program is able to continue is because of the fact that the public has no idea about it, and also because of the blind faith in contraception, a view which has made serious inroads into the Evangelical community, alas.

The one encouraging element of the letter was where Dr. Kuhn acknowledged that Planned Parenthood is under a federal Medicare fraud investigation for ripping off taxpayers with the 340B drug discount program. PP Affiliates of California is also being sued for defrauding taxpayers of $180 million over several years. We argued that an organization under such a serious cloud should be suspended from participation in a program which specifically revolves around distribution of birth control under Medicaid until it has been cleared of any wrongdoing. Shockingly, while admitting they were watching the case very closely, Dr. Kuhn refused to take that step.

Four Simple Questions The Government Owes Us Answers On

To summarize, here are a few of the basic questions we demand answers to:

1) It is clear that the Take Charge program has massively enriched Planned Parenthood in this state. PP of Western Washington makes no bones about this. It also has admitted that it has used these profits to aggressively expaned its abortion business, which has result in 11% more abortions each year. In short, Take Charge is increasing the abortion rate. That is completely unacceptable. Will HHS acknowledge this fact and state for the record whether it considers that an acceptable side-effect of the program?

2) The program is clearly not reducing the overall amount of money being spent by Medicaid on birth. It is up 50%, or $100 million since the program began. This is the program's stated goal, yet it is failing. How long will this program be allowed to continue while having the opposite results of what was intended?

3) Federal law requires that this program be revenue neutral: the money spent on all this "free" birth control must be offset by the savings in births avoided. Yet nowhere has anyone involved in this program demonstrated with hard numbers that the program is revenue neutral. The Final Report which led to the program extension didn't even include any claimed figures as to overall costs to taxpayers, and only intimated at cost savings. What are the alleged cost and savings figures for this program as required by law?

4) Nowhere has anyone explained what safeguards are in place to ensure that abortion isn't used by Take Charge clients to reduce the total number of "Medicaid births". Until demonstrated otherwise, we take it to be true as an observed fact that Take Charge clients who get their birth control from Planned Parenthood and subsequently become pregnant (and 10% of women on the pill will become pregnant in a year, according to the CDC) turn to Planned Parenthood for an abortion. All facilitated by our tax dollars and our federal and state governments.

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