February 8, 2012 — The Nebraska Legislature on Tuesday gave first-round approval to a bill (LB 540) that would expand Medicaid family planning coverage, after lawmakers attached an amendment prohibiting any group that "performs or promotes elective abortion" from receiving funds from the coverage, the Omaha World-Herald reports.
Under the bill, the state would request HHS permission to offer Medicaid family planning services to residents with incomes of up to 185% of the poverty level. Medicaid already covers family planning services for people who are enrolled, most of whom have incomes below the poverty level.
The state Department of Health and Human Services estimated that 26,000 additional women would qualify under the expansion. Bill sponsor Sen. Kathy Campbell said the state would save $5.5 million in general funds by spending an estimated $514,000.
Sen. Tony Fulton, who pushed for the amendment, said the provision would apply to Planned Parenthood affiliates.
Sen. Ken Haar said Fulton's amendment would destroy the bill's intention, which is to expand access to family planning coverage. Haar noted that HHS in December denied Texas' request for a Medicaid family planning waiver because it included a similar restriction on funding to Planned Parenthood. HHS said the state could not exclude qualified health care providers from Medicaid.
The World-Herald reports that Medicaid family planning waivers have helped other states save money. In Minnesota, the number of abortions also declined after more women gained access to family planning (Stoddard, Omaha World-Herald, 2/7).