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CBO Report Confirms GOP’s Budgetary Plan to Attack Planned Parenthood

Christine Grimaldi

Congressional Republicans plan to halt Medicaid reimbursements to “prohibited entities"—and Planned Parenthood is the only organization that qualifies.

Contrary to recent claims from GOP lawmakers and staff, Planned Parenthood is the only health-care provider to face “defunding” under Republicans’ Obamacare repeal, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

The independent arm of the U.S. Congress all but confirmed the partisan vendetta against Planned Parenthood in scoring, or pricing, the American Health Care Act (AHCA). The key detail on reproductive health-care access may have been lost in the CBO’s damning estimate that the GOP-engineered plan could strip 24 million people of their health insurance coverage.

The provision doesn’t address Planned Parenthood by name. But Planned Parenthood is the only organization that meets the specific criteria Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives wrote into their plan to impose a one-year moratorium on Medicaid reimbursements to “prohibited entities”—effectively preventing people with low incomes from accessing quality, affordable health care.

Planned Parenthood hits the bullseye as a “nonprofit,” an “essential community provider … primarily engaged in providing family planning and reproductive health services and related medical care,” an abortion care provider, and the fiscal year 2014 recipient of more than $350 million in Medicaid funds that can’t be used for abortion care due to the discriminatory Hyde Amendment.

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“CBO expects that, according to those criteria, only Planned Parenthood Federation of America and its affiliates and clinics would be affected,” the score said.

Republicans on Capitol Hill countered that assessment.

All language regarding mandatory funding to prohibited entities remains identical,” a GOP aide for the health-care policy-setting House Energy and Commerce Committee told Rewire after the CBO score was released.

The unofficial price on Planned Parenthood’s head is indeed identical to a provision tucked into Republicans’ 2015 Obamacare repeal measure, which was met with President Obama’s veto in early 2016. Back then, the CBO expected that using Republicans’ criteria, “only Planned Parenthood Federation of America and its affiliates and clinics would be affected, although some other health care clinics may also be affected.”

A CBO spokesperson did not immediately answer why the score dropped that caveat this time around.

Prior to the latest CBO score, Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO), co-chair of the House Pro-Choice Caucus, turned to Energy and Commerce’s GOP staff for answers.

“Can you please tell me what providers other than Planned Parenthood are blocked from funding under this provision?” DeGette asked as she proposed an ultimately failed amendment to eliminate the provision around the halfway point of a roughly 27-hour markup of the Energy and Commerce portion of the AHCA.

“CBO identified multiple entities in their last analysis,” said Kristen Shatynski, a committee staffer who has worked as a legislative assistant for Chair Greg Walden (D-OR).

But the 2015 CBO score only cautioned that “some other health care clinics may also be affected”—not “multiple entities.”

DeGette pressed Shatynski for specifics. Shatynski, in turn, repeatedly stated that CBO didn’t identify the other entities by name.

“So if I asked CBO, they would be able to give us the names of those other entities?” DeGette asked.

“I believe so,” Shatynski said.

In the wake of the new CBO score, Republicans foisted the blame for outcomes they didn’t like on their own dedicated number crunchers. Before ascending to the head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, then-House Budget Committee Chair Tom Price helped select the current CBO director, conservative economist Keith Hall. But that hasn’t stopped Price, some congressional Republicans, and White House officials from slamming the CBO over the AHCA findings.

Some Republicans unsuccessfully tried to scale back their ire toward Planned Parenthood during the Energy and Commerce markup.

While defending DeGette’s amendment, Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) questioned the criteria for halting Medicaid reimbursements to Planned Parenthood. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), who was leading the debate on the amendment, dismissed Luján’s concerns. “I will remind the gentleman we’re not here to debate Planned Parenthood, we are here to talk about funding streams,” she said.

At that, the chamber erupted into laughter. And Blackburn, who led a $1.59 million partisan “witch hunt” into debunked allegations against Planned Parenthood, cracked a small smile as she moved to call the committee to order.

Democrats weren’t having it.

“Let’s not pretend that this war on Planned Parenthood is anything other than a direct attack on women’s health,” Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), who served as Blackburn’s counterpoint on the Planned Parenthood investigation, said in a widely shared clip from the markup.

Other Republicans were more forthright. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) was the “most bullish” member at the markup in openly referring to Planned Parenthood, according to a House Democratic aide. Reps. Larry Bucshon (R-IN) and Pete Olson (R-TX) also called out Planned Parenthood by name, the aide said.

A Politico/Morning Consult poll from late February found that support for Obamacare increased weekly with the threat of repeal. Support for certain Obamacare provisions, like coverage for pre-existing conditions, consistently ranks even higher.

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