The Bush administration this week reversed its earlier decision to reject all pending requests from states to extend family planning coverage under Medicaid while the White House considered sweeping changes to the program. Waivers were granted to New York and Missouri, with approvals for the remaining states expected to follow. The reversal came in response to public outcry and legislation proposed on Friday by Sens. Chafee (R-RI) and Feinstein (D-CA) that would have allowed states to extend family planning coverage without White House approval of their individual waiver requests.
However, Bush’s larger reforms may threaten Medicaid coverage of family planning services. On Saturday, President Bush announced that he will lift current regulations and allow states to cut Medicaid benefits, including family planning services, for the working poor. Although Bush has said that this policy will help extend coverage of the uninsured, the administration will not in fact regulate how the state uses money cut from Medicaid benefits. Leighton Ku, a Medicaid specialist at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities decried, “Contrary to the way this is advertised, states could reduce benefits and offer either no or a very small coverage expansion so they save state dollars.”