A Texas lawsuit is aiming to require Planned Parenthood to return millions of dollars in Medicaid payments for health services and even more money in fines.
A hearing was set for Tuesday in front of U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk as the state seeks to recoup at least $17 million from nation’s largest abortion provider, according to The Associated Press. Earlier this year, Kacsmaryk invalidated FDA approval of the abortion pill mifepristone.
The case against Planned Parenthood does not center around abortion, which has been banned in Texas with exceptions for risk to the mother’s life since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year.
Planned Parenthood claims the lawsuit is a new effort to weaken the organization after years of laws from Republicans that pulled funding and restricted how its clinics operate.
The organization received money for health services before it was removed from Texas’ Medicaid program in 2021. The state had started attempting to remove Planned Parenthood four years earlier and now seeks repayment for services billed during that time.
‘This baseless case is an active effort to shut down Planned Parenthood health centers,’ Planned Parenthood Federation of America president Alexis McGill Johnson said.
Texas filed the lawsuit under the federal False Claims Act, which allows fines for every alleged improper payment. According to Planned Parenthood, this could result in a judgment in excess of $1 billion.
The lawsuit was brought last year by Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is temporarily suspended from office as he awaits an impeachment trial next month over allegations of bribery and abuse of office.
Last year, Paxton said it was ‘unthinkable that Planned Parenthood would continue to take advantage of funding knowing they were not entitled to keep it.’
Planned Parenthood has roughly three dozen clinics in Texas, but one closed following the historic SCOTUS ruling that allowed states to make their own laws regarding abortion access.
Former federal prosecutor Jacob Elberg, who specialized in health care fraud, said he believes Texas’ case is weak, adding that the federal False Claims Act is the state’s most powerful tool against health fraud.
Other cases involving this law in recent years were brought against a health records company in Florida, which paid $45 million to resolve allegations of improperly generating sales, and a Montana health clinic that submitted false asbestos claims.
Elberg, now the faculty director at Seton Hall Law School’s Center for Health & Pharmaceutical Law, said it is difficult to understand how Planned Parenthood was knowingly filing false claims while it was in court fighting to stay in the program and Texas was still paying the reimbursements.
‘This just isn’t what the False Claims Act is supposed to be about,’ Elberg said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.