LITTLE ROCK — A new state law that prohibits registered sex offenders from providing Medicaid-funded services in Arkansas does not prevent a physician convicted of a sex offense from practicing medicine in the state or deny treatment to Medicaid patients, the state argued Wednesday in a federal lawsuit.

LITTLE ROCK — A new state law that prohibits registered sex offenders from providing Medicaid-funded services in Arkansas does not prevent a physician convicted of a sex offense from practicing medicine in the state or deny treatment to Medicaid patients, the state argued Wednesday in a federal lawsuit.


Lawyers for the Department of Human Services asked a federal judge not to enjoin implementation of the law as requested by Dr. Lonnie Joseph Parker, a registered sex offender who alleges in a lawsuit filed earlier this month that the law violates his constitutional rights.


Parker, who practices in Hope, said in the lawsuit that more than 75 percent of patients in his rural practice are poor and on Medicaid. He alleges Act 1504 of 2013 "inflicts punishment on a specific group of individuals without judicial trial" in violation of his constitutional right, and that the law violates the rights of his patients by denying their right see any doctor they choose under the Medicaid program.


Several of Parker’s patients have joined the lawsuit.


The law went into effect Aug. 16. Parker’s lawsuit seeks a preliminary injunction to halt enforcement pending the outcome of the lawsuit. A hearing on the preliminary injunction is scheduled Thursday in federal court in Little Rock before U.S. District Judge Bill Wilson.


In its filing Wednesday, DHS argued the new law does not prevent Parker from practicing medicine and does not cause irreparable harm to patient health care.


"The other plaintiffs do not contend there are no other Medicaid-enrolled primary care physicians in the area, nor do they contend they are unable to see another Medicaid-enrolled primary care physician," DHS attorneys said, adding that the plaintiffs only indicated they would prefer to keep Parker as their doctor.


The agency also argued in a 28-page brief that granting the injunction "will defeat the long-stated public policy of the state of Arkansas in protecting persons from convicted sex offenders."


In 2000, Parker was convicted of possessing pornography and sentenced to 49 months in prison. He is classified by the Arkansas Sex Offender Assessment Committee as Level 1 sex offender, the lowest level.