When Planned Parenthood isn’t news (fraud edition)

Is fraud a religion story? Not necessarily.

Are the actions of Planned Parenthood religion stories? Not necessarily.

But what about the larger issue of the ongoing problems that the mainstream news media have had covering abortion and other social issues related to religion? Is it worth noting here, for instance, the very odd lack of coverage of Planned Parenthood’s recent settlement over fraud allegations?

You wouldn’t probably know it from media coverage but, as one conservative think tank noted this week:

Alliance Defending Freedom’s recent analysis of state and federal audits of family planning programs suggests that in 12 states, Planned Parenthood affiliates overbilled Medicaid for more than $8 million. One federal audit of New York’s Medicaid family planning program reported that certain providers, “especially Planned Parenthoods,” had engaged in improper practices resulting in overpayment.

Despite mounting accusations of fraud, the organization that performs roughly one out of every four abortions in the U.S. has continued to ride the waves of taxpayer funding to annual surpluses. During its last reporting year alone, Planned Parenthood received over half a billion dollars in taxpayer government funding, all the while performing a record 333,964 abortions. To solidify its place as the top abortion provider in the country, Planned Parenthood announced that all local affiliates would have to begin providing abortion services starting in 2013.

I don’t remember what the original allegations of fraud in Texas were but Planned Parenthood there agreed to pay the state $1.4 million $4.3 million to settle the claim that it had fraudulently overbilled the state’s Medicaid program for products and services that were never actually rendered, not medically necessary, and were not covered by the Medicaid program.

No biggie. This is just a story about the mainstream news media’s very favorite organization in the whole world paying to settle legal claims. I know that usually when other organizations — say Roman Catholic archdioceses — settle lawsuits even below a million dollars, it usually gets reported pretty far and wide. Rightly so. Certainly the country’s largest abortion provider — and a taxpayer funded one at that — should get some media coverage, no?

It’s so confusing how a private breast cancer charity choosing not to give Planned Parenthood a couple hundred thousand dollars generated thousands of stories but that same abortion group paying a $1.4 million $4.3 million fraud settlement doesn’t generate hardly any.

A quick Google search for Planned + Parenthood + fraud shows that the following outlets did pay attention. See if you can detect a pattern:

LifeNews.com: Texas Planned Parenthood’s Fraud Was $4.3 Million, Three Times More Than Announced

Heritage: Planned Parenthood to Pay $1.4 Million in Medicaid Fraud Settlement

LiveActionNews.org: Planned Parenthood pays millions to settle willful fraud, medical records tampering

HuffingtonPost/Reuters: Planned Parenthood To Settle Alleged Fraud Case With Texas

LifeNews.com: Texas Planned Parenthood Abortion Biz Must Repay $1.4 Million After Medicaid Fraud

ChristianNews.net: Planned Parenthood to Repay $1.4 Million Following Texas Medicaid Fraud Investigation

BizPacReview: Whistleblower nails Planned Parenthood, ordered to reimburse Texas for fraud

PJMedia: Texas Busts Planned Parenthood for Medicaid Fraud

Politico/AP: Planned Parenthood settles fraud case in Texas

OneNewsNow: Medicaid fraud lawsuits against Planned Parenthood will continue in three states

World: Planned Parenthood settles Medicaid fraud case

LifeSiteNews: Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast actually settled fraud case for $4.3 mil, not $1.3 mil

By my count, that is 10 pro-life, conservative or Christian media outlets and two mainstream national news services. Good for Reuters, I guess? Their story frames the fraud charge not as part of a national fraud problem for the abortion provider but as just the latest in a battle between Republican legislators and the abortion provider. But, again, at least they mentioned it. As for the Associated Press, their story is seven sentences long, includes no quotes, and could not be drier or less interesting if it tried.

It didn’t come up in my Google search but I thought I’d see about any stories in The Houston Chronicle.

Well, that newsroom did report on it, sort of.

There’s a whopping four-paragraph story headlined “Planned Parenthood finalizes $4.3 million lawsuit settlement.” That was an update of the earlier story they ran — the seven-sentence AP story that said the settlement was $1.3 million. Way to put those local resources to work, fellas! There’s also a column expressing outrage at … wait for it, wait for it … the attorney general for understating how much the settlement was and bragging about it. Because, you know, that’s the real outrage in multi-million dollar fraud cases involving the media’s favorite abortion provider, amiright? It is a stunningly bizarre column.

Isn’t it just fascinating, though, that a private breast cancer charity choosing to not give money to a massively federally funded group (that provides 300,000 abortions a year but zero mammograms) is top of the news for weeks — complete with breathless advocacy from reporters and anchors — but Medicaid fraud in the millions of dollars barely registers even the tiniest of blips in the news cycle? What’s the journalistic defense, if any?

Fraud image via Shutterstock.

  • JohnMcG

    Clearly, the real story is how actions like Komen’s and the GOP’s War on Women are forcing Planned Parenthood to take these steps to continue providing their vital services.
    [/channelling Amanda Marcotte]

  • Martha O’Keeffe

    But Mollie, why would you expect a national media outlet to cover what is a local crime story? In Texas. And New York. And Florida. And wherever else. Each individual case is exactly that – individual. It’s not like they’re a nationwide organisation that flies their president in to give a pep talk to the local organisation every time there’s the whiff of a chance of publicity!

  • Papa Mincho

    Another yawner of a hit-job from Hemingway, who continues to fail that she’s part of the mainstream media, who continues to cite pro-life screed sites as incontrovertible proof of pro-life positions, and misquote Politico and the Huffington Post to back up her intellectually fraudulent positions. Terrible writer, terrible piece, terrible distortions pretending to be facts.

    Mollie Hemingway is why the left openly mocks the right’s position on abortion.

  • PeterTx52

    did a search of the Dallas Morning News website and it was reported on July 24th, but only on one of their blogs
    http://trailblazersblog.dallasnews.com/2013/07/planned-parenthood-gulf-coast-pays-1-4m-for-medicaid-overcharges.html/

  • robert97

    300,000+ deaths per year?? Compare to how many deaths in Iraq, or Vietnam, or Korea? What an outrage!

    • carlolancellotti

      so, one year (or at most two, I don’t remember how many people died in the Korean war) is more than all three of those combined. What’s your point?

  • Ellen K

    Early on when Wendy Davis began her highly orchestrated star turn at a very contrived filibuster, I said that she was heavily funded by Planned Parenthood and that Planned Parenthood stood to lose money when the ability to refer clients to their pet facilities was taken away. That is what the canned protests were about. I have yet to have any socalled “prochoice” advocate answer the following questions:
    1. Why protest in Texas over the same 20 week limit that currently exists in 42 other states?
    2. Why protest in Texas when most EU nations limit abortions to first trimester including Spain, France, Germany and Italy?
    3. Why push the false story that doctors would not be able to make life or death decisions in the event of a pregnancy emergency that endangered the mother’s life?
    4. What rape victim waits twenty weeks to take action?
    5. Why would prochoice advocates not want emergency surgical capabilities in place for the rare occurrence of a bleed out?

    Make no mistake, this case was always about Planned Parenthoods bottom line. Wendy Davis is bought a paid for by them to advocate for their business models even over the opinions of her own constituents.

    As for the fake “War on Women” meme consider this, under current private policies which many women who work retail or other part time jobs must live, you can get birth control or an abortion, but pregnancy isn’t covered. We found this out when my daughter, newly married, college educated and working was seeking insurance. She works two part time jobs to make one income. As such, she has to provide her own insurance. Currently private policies don’t cover pregnancy. Yet unwed, uneducated teens can simply get a piece of paper signed by a teacher and pop out a kid for free under the auspices of public health. There’s your real war on women.

    • TexasStomp

      Excellent post, Ellen. Wonder if there’s a way to determine just how much money PPA has plowed into Davis’s coffers? And who else is funding her reelect. She’s in trouble here and is trying…with help…to move to the national stage. Her failure here was merely the launch of that move. Dems are like Hollywood…just as long as you spell my name right…

    • Lilian Stoltzfus

      Nicely done, Ellen.

    • BillYeager

      Ellen, you say, “Make no mistake, this case was always about Planned Parenthoods bottom line. Wendy Davis is bought a(nd) paid for by them to advocate for their business models even over the opinions of her own constituents.”
      I do hope you are very sure of your facts regarding this paragraph, with suitable evidence to support your claims. If not, it’s rock-solid libel.

      • Ellen K

        Connect the dots. The only real loser in this bill is Planned Parenthood. Women get better facilities and treatement, the timeline conforms to 42 other countries and the EU, and suddenly a little known Democrat gets launched into temporary stardom. Of course it was Planned Parenthood money.

    • Green_Sapphire

      1. Why protest in Texas over the same 20 week limit that currently exists in 42 other states?

      Why protest for rights in every place even if they are denied in other places? Because they are rights, and if the government is trying to deny them, this should be protested.

      2. Why protest in Texas when most EU nations limit abortions to first trimester including Spain, France, Germany and Italy?

      This is a false equivalency. Automatic abortions without question are allowed in the first trimester in these countries. Abortions after that time involve some consideration of the circumstances.

      The proposed Texas law would completely make illegal all abortions after 20 weeks. That is not the same.

      3. Why push the false story that doctors would not be able to make life or
      death decisions in the event of a pregnancy emergency that endangered
      the mother’s life?

      Maybe because of the death of Savita Halappanavar in Ireland because the doctor’s refused to perform an abortion of a fetus that was already in the process of an unavoidable miscarriage until there was no fetal heartbeat — and even after that the Catholic Church fought tooth and nail against a change in Irish law to allow an abortion to save the life of the mother. Maybe because of the excommunication of Sister Margaret McBride, administrator of St. Joseph’s hospital in Phoenix, because she authorized an abortion in a case where it was 100 % certain that the mother would die if the pregnancy were to continue, because the abortion was against Roman Catholic Church policy that the pregnancy can never be terminated even to save the life of the mother. Maybe because, at Catholic hospitals (now 13% of US hospitals), doctors cannot merely remove an ectopic pregnancy; they are required to remove the affected fallopian tube (reducing fertility) so that “technically” the abortion is a side-effect of the main procedure. Maybe because, at a Catholic hospital, if a doctor has determined that a (future) pregnancy will categorically endanger the life of the woman, he is not allowed to perform a tubal ligation.

      Maybe because of a long list of actual situations that have caused the deaths of women.

      4. What rape victim waits twenty weeks to take action?

      About a third of them.

      Women who become pregnant as a result of rape do not always realize it right away. In a 1996 study[1], researchers found that 32 percent of the rape victims — (therefore about 10,000 women annually[2]) — did not discover they were pregnant until they were in their second trimester, at which time half underwent an abortion.

      [1] Rape-related pregnancy: estimates and descriptive characteristics from a national sample of women, Holmes MM, Resnick HS, Kilpatrick DG, Best CL, American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 1996 Aug;175(2):320-4; discussion 324-5.

      [2] Reasons U.S. women have abortions: quantitative and qualitative perspectives., Finer LB, Frohwirth LF, Dauphinee LA, Singh S, Moore AM, Perspectives in Sexual and Reproductive Health. 2005 Sep;37(3):110-8

      5. Why would prochoice advocates not want emergency surgical capabilities in place for the rare occurrence of a bleed out?

      Why not have emergency surgical capabilities in every dentist’s office in case of a bleed out? Or emergency surgical capabilities in every country doctor’s clinic in case of a bleed out?

      Or emergency surgical capabilities in every home in case of a bleed out, since half of fatal accidents in the US occur in the home?

      Or emergency surgical capabilities in every car in case of a bleed out, since deaths due to blood loss are most frequently due to car crashes?

      We don’t put traffic lights on every street corner, even though most car crashes are known to happen at intersections. We put traffic lights at those intersections where car crashes are most likely to happen. Those decisions are based on the evidence and consideration of professionals in the field.

      If in Texas, the medical communities that make recommendations regarding what capabilities should be present in different types of medical facilities were the ones recommending these capabilities in this type of clinic, based on best medical practices, then they wouldn’t be protesting. But they don’t. The legislators are the ones making these recommendations.

      “I have yet to have any socalled “prochoice” advocate answer the following questions:”

      Now you have had a socalled “prochoice” advocate answer these questions.

      • Ellen K

        1. Do you know why the EU limits abortions to first term? Because it’s less costly and less dangerous for the mother. Why pick Texas? Because Planned Parenthood was going to lose referral fees and the DNC wanted someone, anyone, to elevate and counter the conservative trend in Texas.
        2.Making hypothetical cases based on Ireland is a bit lame.
        3. If you’re in an accident, would you head to CVS or to an ER? If there’s even a one percent chance of an emergency, would you not want every precaution taken? Seems like you want LESS consideration of safety for women.
        I think you’re a party shill by the way, but thanks for playing.

        • Green_Sapphire

          1. (a) Again, the EU does not limit abortions to the first trimester. That is the time frame during which there are no questions and no issues. That is also the period during which the great majority of abortions happen, both in the US and in Europe.

          (b) You believe Planned Parenthood is just in business for the money. I believe they are in business to serve the needs of women and families, especially but not limited to family planning, not just provide those services but also to be active in support of the rights to those services. Apparently we’re going to disagree on that.

          (c) The Democratic Party wants political power and the Republican Party wants political power, in Texas and throughout the US. Each party has positions on a number of issues about which it feels strongly and for which it works to affect the political process and legislation. That’s just politics and democracy in action, and there’s nothing devious or underhanded about it.

          (d) Currently, in Texas, the Republican Party has more political power and uses that power for what it believes is best. On the other hand, the Democratic Party does what it can to increase its political power and to use what political power it does have to work for what it believes is best. That’s just politics and democracy in action, and there’s nothing devious or underhanded about it.

          I may disagree with certain policies of the Republican Party, and some I may even think are awful, but that doesn’t make the people working for them awful people nor does it make every strategy and tactic they use awful per se. The special sessions were a political ‘move’ and the filibuster was a political ‘move.’

          2. I didn’t just mention Ireland, so your retort is a bit lame. I mentioned several actual cases in the US. In addition, many obstetricians advice their patients with challenging pregnancies not to choose a Catholic hospital for delivery because of the risk to their life.

          3. You didn’t read what I wrote. If the medical community makes a recommendation that facilities that offer procedures X, Y, and Z should have capacities A, B, and C, then those are the capacities they should have. Legislatures should not add capacities D, E, and F, without proper medical support.

          The percent chance of such an emergency in a clinic that offers abortions is far, far less than 1%. That’s why the medical communities don’t recommend those extra capacities.

          And, no, it is ridiculous to take “every precaution.” If we wanted to take “every precaution,” we would legislate that every car must be a tank and everyone must wear a helmet whenever they leave their house and every intersection would have a traffic light and every person would be required to stop smoking and maintain a weight within the BMI guidelines or be incarcerated until they did so. For the safety of every citizen, women and men.

          So, no, in our society, we take reasonable precautions. Based on evidence. Which the medical communities use, for example, when they make their recommendations about facilities.

          And, no, I swear to you that I am not a “party shill.”

          • Ellen K

            They absolutely DO. In Germany, France, Spain and Italy abortions are limited to the first 12 to 14 weeks unless the life of the mother is in peril. The assumption is that women are smart enough to know they are pregnant and they know it costs more the later abortions occur so it also falls under cost savings. Planned Parenthood is a business first. Their many claims on reduction of services against Komen were absolutely false as few of their facilities have the equipment on site to do mammograms. Instead they bitched about it because removal of the small amount Komen donated to them and gave to other facilities would reduce Planned Parenthood referral fees. This fiasco, acted out by Wendy Davis and funded by Planned Parenthood was not about abortion access since women would still have the same access, but in better hospital quality facilities, it was about cutting out Planned Parenthood as the middleman. As for the “medical community” let’s remember that not every doctor belongs to the same organizations. That is why many doctors left the AMA after their support of Obamacare. Doctors would still have the individual right to make life or death decisions. You bought all the Pro Choice talking points. You need to start looking at where the money comes from and where it goes.

          • Green_Sapphire

            In Germany, the limits after the first trimester are “in cases of medical necessity,” not the life of the mother. In France, the limits after the first trimester are allowed “to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman; a risk to the life of the pregnant woman; or that the child will suffer from a particularly severe illness recognized as incurable.” In Spain, the limits after the first trimester are “for medical reasons (risk to health of woman or risk of birth defects to fetus).” In Italy, the limits after the first trimester are “when the life of the woman would be at risk if the pregnancy is
            carried to term or the fetus carries genetic or other serious
            malformations which would put the mother at risk of serious
            psychological or physical consequences.”

            You are either lying or you are willfully ignorant of these facts, which are plainly available at Wikipedia inter alia, either of which is unfortunate if you are trying to argue from a religious stance since religions usually recommend something to its followers regarding ethics.

            With regard to facility requirements, I repeat for the third time that my position is that the medical community organization(s) that determine the best medical practices for medical facilities in the state is(are) the appropriate organization(s) for setting medical facility requirements, not the legislature.

            With regard to cancer screenings: Pap smears are cancer screenings. Medical breast palpitations are cancer screenings, and breast self-exam training is cancer prevention. The HPV vaccine is a preventative cancer treatment. Stool testing is cancer screening.

            As I noted above, all political parties work in many ways to achieve their goals. This is not per se nefarious. I happen to be opposed to company/organization political contributions, but since they are legal, it is not surprising that companies/organizations support legislators and parties that are in agreement/alignment with their positions. This is not per se nefarious.

            We disagree that the Texas law would provide women with “the same access.”

            I didn’t “buy” all of anyone’s points. I have formed my opinions. You and I have come to different opinions.

          • Ellen K

            I notice you still avoided the issue that Planned Parenthood funded this public protest and Wendy Davis BECAUSE PLANNED PARENTHOOD WILL LOSE REFERRAL FEES. So this means PP would be willing for women to have lower quality facilities in order for them to maintain the current clinic relationships that they use for their referrals. Pair that with the investigation of fraud in how government money was used and you have a huge issue that people like you are trying to shove under a rug.

          • Green_Sapphire

            I didn’t avoid that issue. I resent that you accuse me of avoiding it when I didn’t avoid it. I replied to it several times, but just in a more general sense. I’ll repeat myself: People and corporations are more likely to support candidates that share the same position on issues. This is not surprising. This is not illegal. This is not an issue. Are you aware of any illegal contributions?

            The overbilling settlement is just one of many such settlements by many health-care providers. Are you aware of anything particularly nefarious about this particular settlement case that is different than other settlement cases?

  • Brian Allan Cobb

    Planned Parenthood is no more “taxpayer funded” than a doctor with lots of Medicare and Medicaid patients.

  • TimN1

    Except that there has been no case proving fraud. Planned Parenthood settled because fighting the case might well have cost as much, and would require the disclosure of thousands of Womens details into the court record, something that been forced in the past. If getReligion is serious about journalistic standards, assuming the prosecutor is always telling the true story is hardly a positive move.

    Googling “planned parenthood fraud” is a bit like googling “Obama birth certificate” – you’re only going to get those who are convinced that PP are evil to the core reporting it as fraud in the first place.

    I’m not saying that overbilling didn’t occur given that it happens in all large organisations private and public, but whether it was fraud, human error or bad procedures is another matter. We are talking about an organisation with an annual budget over $1Bn, so this is close to small change.

    • MollieZHemingway

      Yes, PP settled the case. But settling cases is always news. It’s not like the Roman Catholic Church saying “we’re not admitting wrongdoing, we’re just paying this family $600,000″ doesn’t generate headlines. It does.

      Is it a conviction? No. Is it a settlement? Yes. Some settlements make news. Some don’t. It’s weird how that news judgment is determined ….

      Further, PP Gulf Coast doesn’t have a $1B budget, and there are other fraud suits against other PPs in other states. Still not a huge portion of the budget, but just to clarify.

      • Green_Sapphire

        Do you really think it is morally equivalent that a medical provider may settle a case regarding overbilling…

        …and that a church may settle cases for child rape with known institutional cover-ups of those rapes and known institutional reassignment of said rapists allowing them to rape again?

    • Casey Mattox

      Planned Parenthood paid out $4.3 million because it may have had to pay as much to fight it? That’s some high attorneys fees. And does it impact your opinion that the settlement agreement states that “The United States contends that PPGC submitted false claims …”? The Obama Administration DOJ says PPGC submitted false claims. Not just “those who are convinced that PP are evil.”

      • BT

        $4.3M is in the zone – roughly 30 weeks of work for 3 lawyers at $400 an hour, which isn’t unreasonable for a national firm (likely on the cheap side. I’ve seen bills up to $800.)

    • BT

      True on the googling part. If you Google “Planned Parenthood” + fraud you get a different set of results than PP+Settlement. Since fraud is a loaded term, the search results skew a bit toward the pro life sites whereas settlement is more of a neutral legal term and gives a slightly different set of links.

  • Donalbain

    I think it is time to rename this blog. This story has NOTHING to do with religion at all. Perhaps “Get Right Wing Republican Talking Points” would suit your mission more than “Get Religion”.

  • Green_Sapphire

    “Is fraud a religion story? Not necessarily. Are the actions of Planned Parenthood religion stories? Not necessarily. But what about the larger issue of the ongoing problems that the mainstream news media have had covering abortion and other social issues related to religion?”

    Financial irregularities per se are not generally newsworthy, even medical financial irregularities. Further, since Planned Parenthood’s 3% of revenue from providing abortion services is completely distinct from any revenue from other services that involve some public funding, the irregularities could have had nothing to do with their abortion services.

    So you have to do this dance: Medicare billing settlement –> by a medical organization for Medicare-related services –> which organization separately provides privately-funded abortion services –> abortions are bad –> most people who think abortions are bad think so for religious reasons –> this is therefore a religious issue –> mainstream media didn’t cover this issue –> therefore this non-coverage is evidence of anti-religious bias in the mainstream media.

    As physicist Wolfgang Pauli wrote, ” “It is not only not right, it is not even wrong,”


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