August 6, 2013 — An Iowa law requiring the governor to approve Medicaid coverage of abortions on an individual basis has not been tested in the month since it took effect, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports.
Iowa's Medicaid program covers abortions in instances of rape, incest and fetal anomalies, as well as to protect a woman's life. The recently passed law requires Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) to sign off on all reimbursement requests for Medicaid-funded abortions (Lucey, AP/Sacramento Bee, 8/5).
The changes were negotiated as part of a larger health care bill that includes a Democratic proposal to expand the state's Medicaid program and a Republican proposal to give Branstad authority over Medicaid abortion coverage decisions, which conservatives hope will reduce public funding for abortion (Women’s Health Policy Report, 6/11).
Tim Albrecht, a spokesperson for Branstad, said no abortion reimbursement claims have been filed since the law took effect on July 1.
Lack of Clarity on New Process
According to the AP/Bee, it is unclear how the new process will work. Albrecht declined to comment when asked how Branstad would determine which cases will receive Medicaid funding, other than saying that claims will be handled on a "case by case basis."
Albrecht also did not comment on whether Branstad would apply different standards than had been used in the past to claims for abortions in the instances of fetal anomalies.
If Branstad refuses to approve any Medicaid coverage for abortions, the state would be in violation of federal rules requiring the coverage in instances of rape, incest and to save a woman's life. Such a violation would put some of the state's federal funding at risk, according to the AP/Bee.
Planned Parenthood of the Heartland President Jill June has called for more clarity on the process Branstad will use to determine funding. "[T]he public deserves nothing less," she said, adding that otherwise, providers will not "know whether the government is going to pay that bill [for an abortion] or not" (AP/Sacramento Bee, 8/5).