April 16, 2019

Senate Democrats File Court Brief in Support of Planned Parenthood

Washington – Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) joined a group of senators this week in filing an amicus brief with the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas Family Planning and Preventative Health Services, Inc. et al v. Courtney Phillips, in her official capacity as Executive Commissioner of HHSC, et al. Planned Parenthood is challenging Texas’s attempt to exclude the health provider’s affiliates from the Medicaid program.

“Congress enacted the free-choice-of-provider provision in the Medicaid Act because it intended to confer a fundamental individual right on Medicaid-eligible patients: ‘the choice of one’s own doctor and other provider of health services,’” the senators wrote in the brief. “This right, which Congress intended to ‘be enjoyed by all Americans,’ would be hollow without the corresponding ability to vindicate that right through a private enforcement action.”

In 2016, Texas revoked Planned Parenthood’s status as a qualified medical provider for Texans on Medicaid. The move was blocked by a federal judge in 2018, but last month the Fifth Circuit overturned the judge’s ruling and lifted the injunction. Planned Parenthood appealed the decision, and the case will soon be reheard by the entire Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals en banc, this time focusing on whether Medicaid patients can sue to enforce their rights under the Medicaid Act.

“The plain text of the free-choice-of-provider provision and its legislative history manifest the clear intent of Congress not only to confer the right to choose a qualified medical provider on individual patients, but also to permit them to challenge in court State Medicaid plans that infringe upon that right,” they continued.

The brief, which was led by Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.), is joined by Senators Feinstein, Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Cory A. Booker (D-N.J.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).

The full brief can be found here.

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