Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Will Planned Parenthood Financial Scandal Put "Take Charge" Renewal At Risk?

This is the year that the state Medicaid program which has been called Planned Parenthood's private slush fund comes up for renewal again. While many critics consider the review of any program that supplies half of that controversial organization's revenue little more than a formality, the recent financial audit finding Planned Parenthood of Spokane guilty of five separate categories of overbilling Medicaid could make it awkward to rubber-stamp the program this fall. The abortion chain was told to repay $630,000.

The state government has not said whether the group is still engaged in these types of overbilllings today, and has thus far declined to answer questions as to whether other PP affiliates in the state are guilty of the same practices. They have also not indicated thus far what they have concluded as to whether the overbillings were deliberate, rising to the level of fraud. So far no fraud charges have been filed.

The "Take Charge" program was started in 2001, at the beginning of George W. Bush's first term. An experimental program, it required the permission of the federal government to get started, and needs the feds' review for re-authorization every three years. The initial trial ended in 2006, when it was renewed, despite objections.

"Free Birth Control For a Year"
The premise of the program is simple. Extend Medicaid coverage for birth control to more people by relaxing the income qualification threshold. The result is free birth control for a year for qualifying individuals, mostly women.

It is a fundamental and unquestionable dogma of the sexual left that putting women with dark skin on birth control is A Very Good Thing. Taking oral contraceptives is perhaps the closest thing our cultural Marxists have to a sacrament.

While theoretically any health care provider can sign up to be a "Take Charge Provider" -- i.e., someone who signs individuals up for the program, administers an exam, and provides them with birth control -- it didn't take long for Planned Parenthood affiliates across the state to position themselves as the primary face of the initiative.

Half of Planned Parenthood Clients are Take Charge
A review of Planned Parenthood of Western Washington's finances since 2000 shows a doubling of the revenues since the program began, from about $15 million a year, to about $40 million in revenues each year today! Their annual report freely admits that half of their clients are Take Charge enrollees.

We have conducted an exhaustive review of the Take Charge program, including interviews with Washington State and federal officials who oversee it. The overall objective of the program is to reduce the financial burden on Medicaid of all the birth expenses it pays for. If all these women who end up having babies at Medicaid's expense could be put on birth control, the thinking goes, Medicaid will save money.

Has it worked out that way? You be the judge: just before the program began, in 2000, Medicaid was paying out $200 million for childbirth expenses. Five years later, when the program came up for review and was approved for 3 more years, you might expect that this number had gone down. In fact, that figure had jumped 50% to a staggering $300 million!

The number of births paid for by Medicaid had gone up from about 33,000 to 40,000.

Program Has Led to Expansion of State Abortion Chain
Unfortunately, not all pregnancies end in birth. What about abortion? Since Take Charge began, while the overall abortion rate has declined slightly, the rate amongst Medicaid-eligible Washingtonians has jumped from just over 40% of all abortions to just under 60%.

As we've noted, the largest single gateway for Take Charge clients is Planned Parenthood. Not only have they made literally tens of millions of dollars off the program from birth control sales, their abortion business has mushroomed. They are doing 50% more abortions now than just 3 years ago. While they refuse to make abortion figures for 2000/2001 available, by any estimate they are doing more than twice as many abortions as they were when Take Charge began.

Brian Cutler, spokesman for Planned Parenthood of Western Washington, even admitted to us that they had used the windfall revenue from Take Charge to "upgrade" existing clinics -- including adding "abortion services" -- and to open new ones. In other words, Take Charge money has been used to open abortion clinics.

We confronted state DSHS and federal HHS officials who oversee this program with all this information. The state government has shown little to no interest in addressing our concerns. The federal government did hold a conference call with us to discuss the matter, but provided no meaningful assurances as to how this situation would be remedied.

Breaking the Law?
As if this were not enough, there are two additional matters. Federal law requires that these kinds of experimental programs, known as "Section 1115 Waivers", must be revenue neutral. In other words, the cost of the program -- all that "free" birth control -- must be balanced by savings in terms of births avoided. Nowhere in the Take Charge Final Report presented to the federal government in 2006 did the report's author, Dr. Leslie Cawthon, provide a figure indicating the financial cost of the program, let alone demonstrate its revenue neutrality.

Requests for these figures have been unmet. DSHS may have opened itself up for a lawsuit. We will be following up on this.

Finally, we have asked the federal government point blank: is the goal of the program to reduce the cost to Medicaid by reducing the number of births, or reducing the number of pregnancies? Clearly the former can be achieved through abortion, Planned Parenthood's specialty. The latter cannot. If the only measure is cost, since abortions are cheaper than childbirth, then the current situation would be perfectly acceptable to them. No-one was willing to provide a definitive answer to this question. This is an outrage.

We have called on the government to make it explicit that the cost-saving goals of the program must not be met through abortion. The only way to do this is to require unequivocally that no Take Charge provider can also be an abortion provider.

A long-serving state senator from Western Washington told us off the record that DSHS was so corrupt and "in bed with" Planned Parenthood that there was simply no chance that any program providing so much revenue to the abortion chain would be cut. We shall see soon enough if known Medicaid abusers get their primary source of revenue rubber-stamped.

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