Bill Would Allow Medicaid Family Planning Expansion
Sens. Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.) and Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) yesterday introduced legislation -- called the Family Planning State Empowerment Act of 2001 -- that would allow states to expand family planning services to women under Medicaid without needing a federal waiver (Chafee release, 8/2). The federal government recently decided to reject all pending waiver requests from states asking to expand contraception coverage and other family planning services through their Medicaid programs. Although Medicaid does not cover most abortion services, states were permitted in the mid-1990s to expand family planning benefits through Medicaid by applying for waivers. For their part, Bush administration officials said that they "were not against expanding family planning services" but instead had decided to require states to expand their Medicaid programs in general through "comprehensive," instead of single-issue, changes (American Health Line, 7/31).
Under the proposed bill, states could extend family planning services under Medicaid to women with incomes up to 185% of the federal poverty level without applying for a federal waiver from HHS. "Eliminating the waiver requirement will facilitate state innovation and provide assistance to more low-income women," thereby allowing states to expand services "without having to combat a lengthy, cumbersome and uncertain" waiver process, Chafee said. The bill also would allow states to provide family planning services under Medicaid to low-income women at any time after childbirth, eliminating the federal time limit of 60 days postpartum. In addition, the legislation would allow states to extend family planning services for up to one year to women who lose Medicaid eligibility "because of an increase in income." Reps. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) and Jim Greenwood (R-Pa.) have introduced a similar bill in the House (Chafee release, 8/2). "Our states shouldn't need a federal permission slip to protect our most vulnerable women. This legislation will prevent poor health outcomes for mothers and infants and enable poor mother to remain financially self-sufficient," Lowey said (Lowey release, 8/2).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.