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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The Des Moines-based Planned Parenthood affiliate faces allegations that it fraudulently billed Medicaid from 2002 to 2009 for nearly $28 million.
A federal whistle-blower lawsuit filed by former clinic director Sue Thayer says Planned Parenthood of the Heartland billed Medicaid for blood tests and other procedures related to elective abortions — which are not covered — but not for the actual abortions.
The lawsuit was filed in March 2011 but didn't proceed until federal and state prosecutors decided against intervening.
Planned Parenthood officials declined to comment on the specifics of the lawsuit Tuesday because the organization had not yet reviewed the allegations.
But Planned Parenthood of the Heartland president Jill June said in a statement that the lawsuit is part of "a pattern of harassment against women's health care and Planned Parenthood affiliates across the country."
Planned Parenthood of the Heartland has 31 medical centers in Arkansas, Iowa, Oklahoma, Nebraska and three Illinois counties. It also has education and resource centers in Des Moines, Lincoln, Neb., and Omaha, Neb.
Thayer, who filed the lawsuit, worked for Planned Parenthood for 17 years and was a former clinic director in Storm Lake. The whistle-blower law Thayer used to file the lawsuit may allow her to collect a portion of the damages if Planned Parenthood loses.
The lawsuit accuses Planned Parenthood of violating Medicaid rules by separately billing the government for services related to elective abortions, such as blood tests and blood pressure tests.
The lawsuit also accuses Planned Parenthood of prescribing birth control pills for as long as 14 months without having a health care professional examine patients. Those patients should have met with a health care professional at least once every three months, the lawsuit said.
The nonprofit Alliance Defending Freedom helped Thayer file the lawsuit. The group, formerly known as Alliance Defense Fund, is a Christian group that opposes abortions and supports medical professionals' right to refuse to perform abortions or other procedures they object to morally.