Ark. doctor fights law barring money to offenders

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Associated Press

Posted on September 16, 2013 at 3:06 PM

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — An Arkansas doctor convicted 13 years ago of possessing child pornography is suing the state over a new law that prohibits Medicaid money from going to registered sex offenders, arguing that the restriction violates his constitutional rights.

Dr. Lonnie Joseph Parker and three of his patients asked a federal judge on Friday to block the state from enforcing the new restriction, which took effect Aug. 16 and was approved by the Legislature earlier this year. Lawmakers approved the restriction after an audit noted that Parker had received more than $489,000 in Medicaid payments.

Parker argued that the move would effectively end his practice, since 75 percent of his nearly 2,000 patients are Medicaid recipients.

"This act will, for all practical purposes, end Dr. Parker's normal practice of medicine," Parker's attorney wrote in the lawsuit. "Not only will he be prohibited from counseling and treating his clinic patients, but he will very likely also be barred from practicing medicine in hospitals and emergency rooms."

Parker was convicted in 2000 of possessing child pornography and served more than four years in prison, but he has long maintained his innocence. In 2005, the state Medical Board reinstated his license to practice medicine in Arkansas.

A spokeswoman for the state Department of Human Services, which is named as a defendant in the suit, declined to comment on the case.

Sen. David Sanders, who sponsored the new restriction, said he had proposed it after legislative auditors in February cited the amount of money Parker had received in Medicaid funds between 2006 and 2013. DHS at the time of the audit noted that Parker's medical license had been reinstated and said nothing in his history suggested impropriety when it came to the practice of medicine.

"I think that protecting children and beneficiaries from potential dangers is a good policy," Sanders, R-Little Rock, said.

Parker, however, questioned why the law targeted only doctors who treat Medicaid patients.

"The act only reduces the number of health care providers available to poor people," the lawsuit said. "If there were a legitimate purpose for the act, it would also prevent anyone convicted of a 'sex offense' from providing health care services to citizens who can afford to pay their own medical bills or purchase private medical insurance."

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Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ademillo

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