An article in the upcoming June issue of Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health confirms what reproductive health care providers have known anecdotally for a long time: even Medicaid funds for abortion allowed under exceptions in the Hyde Amendment are overwhelmingly difficult to access.
The Hyde Amendment bans the use of federal funds to pay for abortion, the only procedure explicitly excluded from Medicaid coverage. Exceptions exist only in cases where the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest or endangers the woman’s life. Yet even in these cases many women cannot access funds. Ibis Reproductive Health conducted research into the actual availability of funds in these cases which led to the article in Perspectives. From the organization:
Ibis Reproductive Health interviewed abortion providers about their experiences working with Medicaid to obtain coverage for abortions in these limited cases in order to examine the impact of restrictive funding polices on low-income women. Researchers conducted in-depth interviews with representatives of 25 abortion providers in six states that limit Medicaid funding to the restrictions imposed by the Hyde Amendment (FL, ID, KS, KY, PA, WY). They found that of the 245 reported abortions that should have qualified for Medicaid reimbursement in the year prior to their interview, only 102–less than half–were actually covered–and 97% of those were in one state.
Respondents reported that administrative burdens, including excessive staff time needed to manage claims, cumbersome claims procedures, and ill-informed Medicaid staff, hampered their efforts to seek reimbursement. Bureaucratic Medicaid policies and procedures led to delays for women in obtaining abortions and also meant women had to delay treatment for life-threatening conditions such as cancer and HIV. In addition, some women were prevented from obtaining abortions. Because of the excessive burden of applying for Medicaid reimbursement in these limited cases, many providers said they have “given up” on working with Medicaid.
Under the new US health care reform law, even more women–including those newly eligible for Medicaid, as well as those who purchase health plans with federal subsidies–may be denied access to abortion care. “The Medicaid system is broken. If women who fall under the ‘exceptional’ cases cannot get Medicaid to pay for their abortions now, the problem will only get worse as more women are affected by restrictions in the new health care system,” said Kelly Blanchard, president of Ibis Reproductive Health.
The very limited exceptions in the Hyde Amendment are often used to defend the ban on the use of federal funds for abortion. Yet this research shows that in practice the ban extends to many women who become pregnant as the result of rape or incest or whose lives are endangered by their pregnancies. This is terrible news when it comes to the expansion of Hyde that was pushed through health care reform.
It’s well past time we got rid of these funding restrictions. Click here to take action to repeal the Hyde Amendment.