Stuart Bowen, the man at the center of Texas’s controversial inquiry of Planned Parenthood, said today the probe began after his office found new evidence of possible fraud committed by the embattled women’s health provider.
Bowen, the Inspector General of the Health and Human Services Commission, announced earlier this week that his office was seeking to expel Planned Parenthood from Texas’s Medicaid program. On Thursday, his office delivered wide-ranging subpoenas to Planned Parenthood affiliates.
In an interview late this afternoon, Bowen responded to criticism of his office’s actions and provided several noteworthy updates:
—The HHSC Inspector General’s office is no longer seeking information about employees of Planned Parenthood, he said. The original subpoenas requested names, salaries, home addresses, and home phone numbers of all Planned Parenthood employees. Some criticized that request as an invasion of privacy. “I reviewed that this morning and we have withdrawn that from the request,” Bowen said.
—Planned Parenthood asked for and received a seven-day extension to comply with the subpoenas. Planned Parenthood originally had only 24 hours to submit five years of patient information. Bowen said the 24-hour deadline is required by statute, but his office realized it was seeking an enormous amount of information and from the start was willing to give Planned Parenthood an extension. Asked if his office has had any contact with federal health officials, he said no.
—Finally, Bowen responded to criticism that his office had pre-judged the case. (HHSC accused Planned Parenthood of Medicaid fraud on Monday—three days before requesting records on Medicaid billing.) I asked Bowen if his office had reached a judgment before even finishing its investigation.
He responded that the notices of termination—despite how they sound—aren’t a final judgment. They are just part of a process that could include administrative hearings and appeals, he said.
Perhaps most tellingly, Bowen gave a hint of the evidence that the HHSC Inspector General’s office has against Planned Parenthood.
He said that a whistleblower (not the same person involved in a 2013 settlement) has approached the Inspector General’s office with new allegations of Medicaid fraud committed by Planned Parenthood in Texas. (Planned Parenthood leaders have strenuously denied such charges.)
Bowen’s comments are the first hint of evidence that underlies the Inspector General’s inquiry. In Monday’s letters to Planned Parenthood, Bowen vaguely references “information my office has recently received.” It now seems that “information” consists, at least in part, of fresh allegations by a whistleblower from inside Planned Parenthood.
As I wrote earlier this week, Texas officials will have a difficult time expelling Planned Parenthood from the program—unless there’s strong evidence of Medicaid fraud. Bowen’s comments today provide the first taste of what that evidence might be.