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.
Media Resources: Reuters Health News - November 3, 2000 and Feminist Majority Foundation
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