Senators Seek Return of Medicaid Family Planning Waivers
Twenty-two senators have sent a letter to HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson asking the Bush administration to reverse its decision to reject all pending state requests for waivers to expand contraceptive coverage and other family planning services through Medicaid, the New York Times reports. The letter, prepared by Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and signed by 20 Democrats, one Republican and one independent, said that the administration's decision to turn down the funding proposals "undermines efforts to reduce unintended pregnancies and improve maternal and infant health." In addition, they "voiced concern that the administration would not allow similar Medicaid plans that have already been implemented in other states to continue" when they come up for reauthorization (Hernandez, New York Times, 7/29). State Medicaid programs, which cover limited family planning services, were permitted in the mid-1990s to expand such offerings by applying for waivers. But the Bush administration has recently denied or is expected to turn down similar requests from "at least" nine states, as well as New York, the Times reports. For their part, 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. They acknowledged, however, that all the affected single-issue waiver requests concerned family planning services. According to the Times, the senators "steered clear of assigning any motive" to the Bush administration position in the letter, but said the administration had reversed a pre-existing federal policy (New York Times, 7/29).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.