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Next spring is earliest that Planned Parenthood can be tossed out of Missouri's Medicaid program

Planned Parenthood supporters rally in 2015 outside the agency's clinic in St. Louis after a mass shooting at a clinic in Colorado Springs.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

State officials charged with overseeing Missouri’s changes in its women’s health program for the poor are officially estimating it will be next April before a new state-funded program is in place that bars Planned Parenthood from participating.

Missouri’s Department of Social Services has posted its phase-out plan on its website.It comes after Gov. Jay Nixon announced Thursday that it will take months for the state to replace its federally funded women’s health program – which must include Planned Parenthood – with a state-funded program that does not.

Nixon’s administration is attempting to comply with a General Assembly mandate, inserted in the new state budget, that the state drop its $8.8 million federally funded program – thus, forgoing the federal money – to cut out Planned Parenthood’s involvement.

The new budget year begins July 1.

That 9-month phase-out schedule comes as Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster’s office announced that some of the state’s strict standards governing abortion clinics are at risk as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling Monday that tossed out similar mandates in Texas.

“Monday’s Supreme Court ruling calls into serious question the constitutionality of certain Missouri laws,” Koster spokeswoman Nanci Gonder said Friday. But she made clear that it will likely be up to the courts to decide.

Tossing out Missouri’s requirement that abortion doctors have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals is likely to aid a Planned Parenthood effort to renew its abortion operations at its clinic in Columbia, both sides have said.

National Planned Parenthood officials announced this week that Missouri is among eight states where they plan to challenge the regulations similar to those the Supreme Court knocked out in Texas. The other states are: Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

Next governor will likely deal with battle over Medicaid

On the Medicaid front, a number of states have sought to bar Planned Parenthood from continuing to collect federal money for non-abortion related women’s health services it provides to low-income women.

So far, Planned Parenthood has won court fights in several states over the issue. That’s among the reasons Missouri legislators opted to drop the state’s participation in the federal women’s health program, and replace it with a state-funded program.

Planned Parenthood’s Missouri operations had been receiving less than $400,000 a year in federal Medicaid money to provide health-care services for low-income women. Those services include providing contraceptives, but by law cannot include abortions.

Gov. Jay Nixon's criticism of the legislature was relatively low key. 5.15.15
Credit Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio | file photo
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon

Many Missouri Republicans have sought for decades to bar any government money, state or federal, from going to Planned Parenthood. The state’s old family-planning program, operated in the 1990s, was scuttled when courts ruled that the state could not bar Planned Parenthood’s participation.

But Nixon made clear Thursday that federal procedures will need to be followed before the state can drop its existing federally funded women’s health program for the poor and replace it with a state alternative.

He indicated the procedural requirements are why the matter will likely end up in the lap of the next governor. Nixon leaves office in January.

So far, Missouri GOP legislative leaders haven't commented on Nixon's announcement of the nine-month timeline.

Nixon also reaffirmed his opposition to the General Assembly’s action.

“For nearly a decade, Missouri has provided health-care services to low-income women through this federal program, with the federal government picking up 90 percent of the cost,” he said. “Failing to use these federal funds and expending additional state resources is unnecessary and inefficient, diverting dollars that could have been used for public education and other priorities. I’m disappointed that the legislature has decided to take this fiscally irresponsible approach.”

The posting of the Department of Social Services’ draft implementation plan now officially launches a 30-day comment period, as mandated under federal law.

Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.