It’s becoming a favorite Republican talking point on the alleged wasteful spending in the Obama Administration’s economic stimulus package:
“You know, I’m concerned about the size of the package. And I’m concerned about some of the spending that’s in there, [about] … how you can spend hundreds of millions on contraceptives,” House GOP Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) later said.
“How does that stimulate the economy?”
Both Drudge and Limbaugh have picked up on that theme, and ridiculed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for defending the idea. But Amanda Terkel over at Think Progress takes a look at the actual language of the proposal, and discovers that isn’t exactly how it works. Here’s what it says:
State Option to Cover Family Planning Services.
Under current law, the Secretary has the authority under section 1115 of the Social Security Act to grant waivers to states to allow them to cover family planning services and supplies to low-income women who are not otherwise eligible for Medicaid. The bill would give states the option to provide such coverage without obtaining a waiver. States could continue to use the existing waiver authority if they preferred.
As Terkel points out:
Like other portions of the stimulus bill, this measure would not only aid states, but also provide preventative, cost-saving health care to help low-income women support their families and keep working. It focuses on access to recommended services and contraception to prevent unplanned pregnancies and promote maternal and infant health — not abortion. An upcoming Congressional Budget Office report estimates that this change would save $200 million over five years and $700 million over 10.
No one would be forcing states to pay for family planning services. States can now cover low-income women if they get a state waiver, but approval can take a long time. Despite these bureaucratic hassles, 27 states have already “obtained federal approval to extend Medicaid eligibility for family planning services to individuals who would otherwise not be eligible.” This bill would simply allow states to skip the administrative delays.