Medicaid programs in New York and California will cover mifepristone, the early abortion pill, according to Reuters Health News. These are the first two states to offer Medicaid coverage for mifepristone beyond cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment to the woman. The US Department of Health and Human Services has yet to decide whether state Medicaid programs should fund the drug, which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on September 28. Debate centers around whether mifepristone will be treated as a drug or as a “service” in a pill form. Once application for the drug’s other potential uses as a treatment for certain progestin-dependent tumors and conditions are submitted and receive FDA-approval, Medicaid will have to cover those uses as well, widening access for women with fibroid tumors, ovarian cancers, and other serious diseases.
Currently, the Hyde Amendment limits federal funds for abortion for poor women to cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment, although states can expand Medicaid funding for abortion if no federal funds are used. The NY Department of Health noted that federal Medicaid rules require any new drug approved by the FDA to be included under Medicaid rolls. Other state health departments agree, but say that, because mifepristone is sold directly to physicians (not pharmacists) for abortion, the ruling is unclear. Many states, like Florida and Arkansas, will cover mifepristone only in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment.