The Texas Tribune this morning published an article that indicates the fate of Texas Health and Human Services Inspector General Stuart Bowen is uncertain at this time.
Planned Parenthood investigation tied to fund-raising effort
The context of the story was an update on the state’s case against Planned Parenthood and its attempt to cut Medicaid funds to the group for women’s health services because of its abortion services (which are not covered under Medicaid). While the group receives $3.1 million in total from Medicaid, only $310,000 comes from Texas. The rest is from the federal government.
It was one year ago that Gov. Abbott announced an investigation into Planned Parenthood prompted by controversial videos from an anti-abortion group. Actually, Abbott called for cutting all Medicaid funds prior to any investigation of wrong-doing and, per the Tribune, started a fund-raising campaign a few days after the announcement, using it to get donor contributions.
Nothing happened to date and Bowen under the gun
Bowen, Abbott’s appointee to the IG position, is responsible for the investigation. However, nothing has happened to date. Bowen told the Tribune the case is sitting with the Attorney General’s office, probably the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.
Regardless, it appears Bowen is in jeopardy of losing his position. The Tribune noted that his one-year appointment was up eight months ago in February and there has been no word from the governor’s office about his reappointment.
In fact, when the Tribune reporters asked Abbott’s office about it, a spokesman declined to comment.
Bowen has been good for Texas Medicaid providers
It would be too bad indeed for all Medicaid providers if Bowen were not reappointed. Bowen has shown exceptional professionalism and restraint in dealing with Medicaid providers. He reviewed and settled long-standing investigations into dental providers. He has reached out to the provider community and started a dialogue which was non-existent under his predecessor and is demonstrated by his Inspector General Integrity Initiative. He has been providing quarterly reports about the operation of his agency which have shown a dedication to transparency in his agency’s operations.
While there are rumors that Bowen is lobbying legislators to reverse some of the due process ground made by providers under SB 207 ie. being able to place payment holds for program violations, he has done a good job so far in putting in place positive changes for the Office of Inspector General and changing the face of that beleaguered agency.
Medicaid and its providers are political footballs in Texas
What this situation again illustrates is that Medicaid is a political football in Texas. It is not about delivering health services.
Regardless of the controversial nature of Planned Parenthood, if they haven’t broken the law, they can’t be de-funded. To do otherwise places every Medicaid provider at risk of political interference.
Bowen is doing his job if he investigates and finds nothing wrong. If Abbott punishes him for this, then it is Abbott who is wrong. Texas will lose as a result.
Those dentists who were caught in the web of false allegations of fraud over Medicaid orthodontic treatment know full well it can happen to any provider if the political winds blow ill.
Dr. Villarreal’s upcoming book details this health care tragedy.