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UIHC: No state money for Medicare abortions

BY CHRIS HIGGINS | FEBRUARY 20, 2014 5:00 AM

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University of Iowa officials have emphasized taxpayer money is not used to perform abortions at the UI Hospitals and Clinics.

In a bipartisan compromise, the Iowa Legislature last year gave Gov. Terry Branstad the power to approve reimbursements to clinics providing abortions through Medicaid. However, the governor has yet to see any requests on his desk, said Branstad spokesman Jimmy Centers.

The hospital is paying for abortions qualifying for Medicaid out of its own budget rather than asking the governor for payment “to avoid being involved in the politics of the matter,” UI spokesman Tom Moore said.

Iowa’s Medicaid program allows reimbursement for abortions performed in the cases of incest, rape, and serious fetal health problems and also to prevent the mother’s death. A small number of the procedures are eligible yearly. 

“The hospital is absorbing the costs from its own revenues, which are not derived from state funds,” Moore said.

Tim Hagle, a UI political science associate professor, said he did not want to speculate directly on the governor’s actions but said Branstad is viewed as having an opposition to abortion because of his conservative political beliefs. He said the compromise has political benefits for many politicians.

“The idea is that [politicians] don’t get in trouble with constituents for providing public funding for abortions,” Hagle said. “At least [the hospital does have] that option as opposed to just not providing abortions.”

Rep. Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville, noted the limited number of abortions that have the possibility of Medicaid funding.

“There are very few, and we absolutely know that some of those are from the anomaly where there are severe deformities in the fetus,” he said.

The UIHC has performed 15 abortions eligible for Medicaid funding since the rule took effect last July. The total cost to UIHC has been $27,500, according to the Associated Press.

Sen. Ken Rozenboom, R-Oskaloosa, said he is glad no state funding is being used on abortions.

“To ask any taxpayer to fund a practice that they find immoral and inappropriate is the ultimate in taking away their freedom,” he said. He said he would stop the hospital’s work-around if he could.
Both Jacoby and Rozenboom were unaware the UIHC, part of a state-run university, is not using public funds for the abortions.

Spokesman Centers wanted to make clear that Branstad does not agree with the new rule.

“This was a compromise worked out in the Legislature and wasn’t recommended by the governor,” Centers said.

Jacoby said even if the state is not funding the abortions, there must be a burden of cost somewhere.

“The bottom line is that someone pays,” he said. “There’s no such thing as a free medical procedure.”


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