TennCare moves to implement new TN ‘defund Planned Parenthood’ law

In compliance with a law approved earlier this year by the state legislature, TennCare officials last week applied to the federal government for a waiver that could block clinics that provide abortions from being paid for other health care services, reports the Johnson City Press. An ETSU professor says there may be unintended consequences including more abortions; a legislator disagrees.

No TennCare funding (currently) can be used to pay for elective abortion procedures, but the waiver seeks to withhold Medicaid reimbursements for all services, like contraceptive services, screening for sexually transmitted diseases and routine gynecological exams, from providers that performed or operated a facility that performed more than 50 abortions in the previous year.

The state legislature voted in March to direct the state to apply for the waiver from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services establishing, according to the waiver, “it is the policy of the state of Tennessee to favor childbirth and family planning services that do not include elective abortions within the continuum of care or services, and to avoid the direct or indirect use of state funds to promote or support elective abortions.”

Dr. William Block, chair of the East Tennessee State University Quillen College of Medicine Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, said the lawmaker’s actions could increase the number of abortions in the state, the opposite of their intended effect.

“The problem is, there may be unintended consequences, like the lack of contraception for women who need it,” he said. “If women don’t have access to those services anymore, there probably will be a rise in unintended pregnancies and an increase in demand for abortions.”

… Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, voted for the waiver requirement in committee and on the House floor this year. He said Friday he doesn’t believe Block’s claim that it could lead to more abortions in the state.

“I don’t think that it is a very valid argument, because you can go to any of the county health departments and get your contraception there,” Hill said. “You can go to any of the community clinics that aren’t doing abortions, and I think the argument that it’s somehow limiting that access — I don’t think there’s any weight to that argument.

Note: In the legislature, the bill was promoted as a measure to “defund Planned Parenthood.” Previous post on legislative approval of the measure is HERE.  A federal appeals court has struck down an Ohio law that’s somewhat similar to the Tennessee law, as noted in a previous post HERE.


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