(Photo: REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)
The Government Accountability Office has announced that it will investigate Planned Parenthood's use of taxpayers' dollars amid recent cases against abortion providers that have fraudulently over-billed Medicaid, and other family planning programs.
In February, Reps. Diane Black (R-Tenn.), Pete Olson (R-Texas) and Senator David Vitter (R-La.) were among a group of more than 50 members of Congress who requested a report from the GAO on how taxpayer funding is specifically used by Planned Parenthood and other organizations that perform abortions.
"The federal government providing funding to abortion providers is a serious problem in our nation," said Rep. Black in a statement shared with The Christian Post. "This independent study of how much and for what purpose these dollars are allocated to all abortion providers is necessary for Congress to ensure accountability and oversight. I look forward to reviewing the results and ultimately, mobilizing the support needed to stop federal funding of abortion providers once and for all."
Black and Vitter are the lead sponsors of the Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act (H.R. 217/S. 135), legislation that aims to block Title X federal funding from going to organizations that perform abortions, such as Planned Parenthood.
Michael J. Norton, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, which has filed lawsuits against Planned Parenthood, told the CP on Wednesday that the organization has, during the past few years, released reports to Congress that have identified waste, abuse and potential fraud by Planned Parenthood, state family programs and other organizations, as well as potential fraud by Planned Parenthood affiliates relating to grants from Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
"We have been focusing on Planned Parenthood's waste, abuse and potential fraud, and to identify Planned Parenthood as significantly taking advantage of well-funded, poorly addressed family planning programs in particular," Norton said. "Audits and other reviews of Planned Parenthood affiliates' financial data and practices – as well as 45 audits of state family planning programs and one audit of a family planning organization – found more than $108 million in waste, abuse and potential fraud. Taxpayer money is only supposed to be used responsibly and for the common good."
Vitter noted in a statement that abortion providers that benefit from taxpayers' dollars haven't had to account for how they use the funds they receive.
"Planned Parenthood performed a record 333,964 abortions last year – almost 1 million in the past three years," Vitter said. "At the same time, they also received more federal taxpayer dollars than ever before – a record $542 million, an 11 percent increase over the past two years. Planned Parenthood and other organizations that provide abortions clearly benefit from Uncle Sam, but there's no accounting to prove how they actually use that money. This GAO report would shine a light on how our tax dollars are being spent."
According to Norton, after reviewing publicly available audits, either by the federal office of the inspector general HHS or state inspector generals, ADF has discovered that Planned Parenthood organizations, affiliates, as well as other family planning offices, have permitted at least waste and abuse. "And potential fraud in management and billing of the programs to the tune of $108 million in about 45 audits that we've identified," he said. "These are very few audits and a very small sliver of services that are provided and billed by Planned Parenthood to the government and paid for by taxpayer dollars. But it's indicative of what we believe to be widespread abuse and potential fraud by Planned Parenthood."
ADF has filed three lawsuits against Planned Parenthood, one of which is in south Texas, where their client, Abby Johnson, has brought a federal false claims act complaint against the abortion provider for fraud against the Texas Women's Health program for billing services that were not reimbursable under that program.
Norton told CP that when Planned Parenthood learned it had been caught improperly billing the Texas Women's Health program for the last year and a half, they held a management meeting in Houston, Texas, where they told clinic managers, including Johnson, that although they had been improperly billing the program, they were hoping that they weren't going to get caught, and had no plans to refund the money.
"Well, they're being caught. Not only in Texas, but around the country," Norton said.
"In addition to the audit report I mentioned and the lawsuit by Johnson in the southern district of Texas, there is this most-recent case announced by the Texas attorney general. A fraud false claims act case against Planned Parenthood by another Planned Parenthood worker, wherein Planned Parenthood agreed to pay $4.3 million to the U.S. government, state of Texas, and the person bringing the lawsuit, Karen Reynolds, for fraud and billing fraud against the Medicaid and various family planning programs – Title 10, Title 20, and the Texas Women's Health program. In that case, the substance of the allegations was that Planned Parenthood was billing for services that were not rendered, or if rendered, were not medically necessary," he explained.
Norton added that he believes these cases are "the tip of the iceberg," and might lead to finding a widespread scheme and potential fraud throughout the country.
"Planned Parenthood, which derives $540 million a year in taxpayer dollars, is simply not managing taxpayer dollars well, and it needs to be held accountable; and American taxpayers deserve to know how their tax dollars are being spent. And it should not be allocated to organizations, such as Planned Parenthood, that are abusing the program – at least wasteful in the way in which they do it, and probably fraudulent as well."
Other lawsuits that ADF has filed against Planned Parenthood include one in Iowa that was brought by a former Planned Parenthood clinic manager who claims the abortion provider was over-billing of oral contraceptives and emergency contraceptives. Similarly, a lawsuit filed in Seattle, Wash., was brought by a person who investigated and allegedly found that Planned Parenthood committed fraud in connection with the emergency contraceptive program.