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NATIONAL POLITICS & POLICY | Provision To Increase Access to Medicaid Family Planning Services Cut From Stimulus Package

NATIONAL POLITICS & POLICY | Provision To Increase Access to Medicaid Family Planning Services Cut From Stimulus Package
[Jan. 28, 2009]

Under pressure from Republicans, President Obama and House Democrats on Tuesday agreed to drop a provision of the proposed economic stimulus package that would have given states the option to expand Medicaid coverage of family planning services, the Washington Post reports (Murray/Kane, Washington Post, 1/28). Wall Street Journal's "Washington Wire" reports that the provision would have allowed states to extend Medicaid family planning coverage to women with incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid without obtaining special permission from HHS (Meckler, "Washington Wire," Wall Street Journal, 1/27). Republicans who opposed the provision argued that it had "nothing to do with economic stimulus," the New York Times reports. According to the Times, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the Medicaid provision would have saved the government $200 million over five years by decreasing costs related to pregnancies and post-natal care covered by Medicaid (Calmes/Hulse, New York Times, 1/28).

The Post reports that Obama persuaded House Democrats to remove the provision "[a]s a show of good faith" before an expected House vote on Wednesday. During a meeting with House Republican leaders on Tuesday, Obama reassured Republicans that their concerns over the bill were being considered during the final stage of drafting (Washington Post, 1/28). A Democratic aide said, "It obviously has sort of generated this firestorm of criticism. It ended up being a distraction, and it will be removed" ("Washington Wire," Wall Street Journal, 1/27). The Senate will consider a similar, separate bill next week, according to the Post (Washington Post, 1/28).

Mary Jane Gallagher, president of the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, said, "Family planners are devastated that President Obama and Congress have decided to take funding for critical family planning services out of the stimulus." She added, "Their willingness to abandon the millions of families across the country who are in need is devastating." The Planned Parenthood Federation of America said the provision was a "victim of misleading attacks and partisan politics" ("Washington Wire," Wall Street Journal, 1/27).