Debate Over Medicaid Abortion Coverage Stalls Iowa Budget Measure

March 25, 2013 — Iowa officials on Thursday said progress on the state's health and human services budget remains stalled because of a recurring debate over language regarding funding of abortions by the state's Medicaid program, the Sioux City Journal reports.

Last year, lawmakers adjourned without finalizing the health and human services budget after Republican lawmakers introduced language that would limit Medicaid coverage of abortions to those that are deemed "medically necessary." Democrats wanted to maintain the current language, which allows Medicaid to cover abortions in limited cases, including rape, incest and fetal deformities (Boshart, Sioux City Journal, 3/21).

Last summer, Republican lawmakers again attempted to change the language by petitioning Iowa Department of Human Services Director Chuck Palmer. Palmer dismissed Republicans' petition, saying that the policy would violate federal funding requirements and jeopardize all of the state's Medicaid funding (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/28).

Now, lawmakers face a looming deadline to approve supplemental money to fund Medicaid services, which will run out of money in early June.

Iowa paid for 22 abortions in fiscal year 2012, according to data from the state Department of Health. State Sen. Jack Hatch (D), co-chair of the House-Senate health and human services subcommittee, said it is up to the House leadership to prevent a small group of GOP lawmakers from "holding hostage" the funding for health and human services (Sioux City Journal, 3/21).