Iowa Planned Parenthood clinics filed false claims, former director alleges

Lawsuit claims clinics automatically mailed birth control pills to patients

March 31, 2014 | 9:36 pm

A former clinic director of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland is suing the clinic, claiming it submitted fraudulent or ineligible claims for birth control pills.

Sue Thayer, through her attorneys, Alliance Defending Freedom, filed the federal suit in the Southern District March 2011 against the two Iowa clinics, Iowa Medicaid Enterprise and the Iowa Family Planning Network, but it was just unsealed Monday.

The suit claims Planned Parenthood filed nearly half a million false claims with Medicaid from 2002 to 2009, from which the organization received and retained nearly $28 million in reimbursements.

Planned Parenthood allegedly implemented a “C-mail” program that automatically mailed a year’s supply of birth control pills to women who had only been seen once at a clinic, and usually by personnel who were not qualified health care professionals, according to the suit. Planned Parenthood then mailed thousands of unrequested birth control pills to those clients.

The suit contends the clinic cost for a 28-day supply mailed to clients was $2.98, but the Medicaid reimbursement to the clinic for the pills was $26.32. Planned Parenthood resold the same birth control pills and billed Medicaid twice for the same pills if they were returned by the postal service, instead of crediting Medicaid or destroying the returned pills.

Shelby Cloke, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, said in a statement the organization hadn’t received the lawsuit Tuesday and hadn’t had a chance to fully review the allegations. The organization became aware of potential allegations after complying with an intensive audit, where hundreds of thousands of internal documents and filed dating back to 2006 were supplied.

The clinics serve more than 65,000 Iowans every year.

Both the federal government and the state declined to exercise their right to intervene in the matter, according to orders filed July 5 and 6.

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller released the following statement Tuesday after declining to intervene in the lawsuit:

“Our decision to decline intervention at this time follows an extensive review of the case with federal and state investigators, and an extensive review of a large volume of evidence. We reserve the right to intervene at a later date upon the showing of good cause.”

Cloke said in a statement the lawsuit “follows a pattern of harassment against women’s health care and Planned Parenthood affiliates across the country. The extreme organization that former employee Sue Thayer has partnered with has a mission to take down Planned Parenthood. Alliance Defending Freedom, formerly Alliance Defense Fund,  uses politics as a form of destruction, targeting Planned Parenthood affiliates across the country with false claims and misinformation.”

Cloke said Thayer was employed for 17 years with Planned Parenthood, and Thayer never expressed concern or discontent with practices or protocols until her employment ended. Planned Parenthood has various safeguards and confidential resources in place for all employees with questions or concerns, she said.

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