U of Iowa didn’t bill Medicaid for 2 abortions

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — The University of Iowa has declined to bill Medicaid for two abortions performed since July 1, sidestepping a new law that requires the governor to decide whether the program should pay for those procedures.

Last spring, the Legislature voted to require the governor’s personal approval before Medicaid is called upon to pay for abortions. Gov. Terry Branstad said he was ready to do so.

The law — the first of its kind in the country — doesn’t require the governor’s permission for abortions to be performed. It’s considered a compromise between the demands of those who oppose and those who are pro-abortion rights.

The university’s vice president of medical affairs, Dr. Jean Robillard, told The Des Moines Register (http://dmreg.co/15VLslp ) that the two abortions would have qualified for Medicaid reimbursement because both involved fetal anomalies. But he declined to say whether the decision not to bill them to Medicaid was related to the new requirement for the governor’s approval.

“I don’t want to get involved in the politics of this,” he said.

Robillard said federal money would not have been available for the two abortions. He said the billing issue will not affect how the staff at U of I treats its patients.

“What we are focusing on is really to take care of the patients,” he said.

Iowa’s Medicaid program paid nearly $20,000 total for 22 abortions in fiscal 2012. The reimbursement is only available in certain circumstances such as when the mother’s health is at risk or when the pregnancy is due to rape or incest.

Jill June, president of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, said UI’s decision illustrated the new law’s flaws.

“It is essential that women receive medically necessary abortions,” she said in a statement. “University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics clearly understand that. Their reluctance to submit legitimate claims underscores the fact that this is bad public policy; it discriminates against women and the physicians who provide the health care they need.”

The Missouri Valley Republican, who opposes abortion, said the university’s use of private insurance means “we are not directly appropriating taxpayer dollars to end human life.” Though he acknowledged that abortions at the U of I still will be financed with some state money.

Tim Albrecht, Branstad’s spokesman, declined to comment on what the governor thought about the university’s decision.

“The Iowa Legislature made clear, with bipartisan support, their intent to reduce the number of taxpayer-funded abortions,” he wrote in an email to the Register. “Medicaid providers have a great amount of discretion in the claims they submit to the state for reimbursement, and UIHC is no different. Certainly, the Legislature is free to determine if other changes are necessary when they convene in January.”

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Information from: The Des Moines Register, http://www.desmoinesregister.com

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