(NaturalNews) Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has announced that women's health group Planned Parenthood, which provides early and late-term abortions at many of its clinics nationwide, has signed an agreement to pay the state $1.4 million in to settle fraud allegations surrounding billing to a health program for the poor.
At the same time, Reuters reported, a spokeswoman for the organization's Gulf Coast chapter denied the charges and said Planned Parenthood only settled to avoid a lengthy, costly legal battle with Texas (no word on whether the spokesperson said she thought Planned Parenthood would have eventually won such a case). Per Reuters:
The settlement is the latest in a series of confrontations between Planned Parenthood and the Republican-led state government of Texas.
It follows one week after Texas approved a new law that will force Texas clinics performing abortions to upgrade facilities to those of outpatient surgery centers, which could cost thousands of dollars for each clinic.
'Falsified material information in patients' medical records'
In other words, Texas has done what the federal government has so far failed to do and isn't planning on doing: impose and enforce some health and treatment standards on abortion clinics, so as to begin treating them the same as other health clinics that don't provide abortions but provide other health and treatment services. Ditto for hospitals.
Previously Texas had enacted a measure against Planned Parenthood facilities in Texas that barred them from participating in a state health program for poor women; Reuters said that program funded "care such as annual exams, cancer screenings and birth control." Planned Parenthood sued over the measure but lost in court.
As for Abbott - a Republican running to replace GOP Gov. Rick Perry, who is stepping down after three terms in 2014 - said a whistleblower charged that Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast was improperly billing the state for products and services that were never actually rendered, were not covered by Medicaid, or were medically unnecessary. Medicaid, by the way, is a federal medical program that is funded mostly by the Feds but administered by states. Reuters noted:
Investigators determined that Planned Parenthood "falsified material information in patients' medical records" in order to support fraudulent reimbursement claims, Abbott said.
Planned Parenthood said the allegations are without merit and the group was settling "as a practical matter."
"Continuing this litigation in the hostile environment for women's health would have ensured a lengthy and costly process that would have distracted our energies and required us to share the private medical information of thousands of women," Rochelle Tafolla, the organization's spokeswoman, said in a statement. "We are ending this lawsuit in order to devote all of our time and energy to delivering high quality affordable health care."
Abbot is a strong opponent of abortion and an even stronger opponent of waste, fraud and abuse. News reports, however, have depicted him and fellow Republicans as merely being hostile to poor women because they have cut funding for programs administered by Planned Parenthood, causing the group to close three clinics in Texas - one of which performs abortions.
However, reports note that Abbott has recovered hundreds of millions of dollars in waste, fraud and abuse, and has also managed to collect billions in child support for Texas children. And he has made cracking down specifically on Medicaid fraud a priority since first being elected (he, too, is in his third term as the state's AG).
"As a groundbreaking leader in the field, the State of Texas was the first state in the nation to pursue a pharmaceutical manufacturer for improperly reporting the price of its drugs to the Medicaid program. Since 2002, the OAG has recovered more than $550 million in fraudulent overpayments from pharmaceutical companies that misreported inflated prices to the Medicaid program," he wrote in a March editorial published in Houston Forward Times.
Adds the National Association of Attorneys General:
Shortly after taking office, Attorney General Abbott established a Cyber Crimes Unit to arrest criminals who use the Internet to prey upon children; a Fugitive Unit to arrest convicted sex offenders who violate their parole; and an expanded Medicaid Fraud Control Unit to crack down on elder abuse and waste of taxpayer dollars. Since taking office, General Abbott has collected more than $15 billion in child support for Texas children.