Sen. Rapert Gets Governor To Ask Feds To Block Morning After Pill Coverage

Apr 20, 2016

State Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Bigelow).
Credit Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The governor’s Medicaid expansion plan picked up a last minute potential change intended to block insurance coverage for the Morning After and Plan B pills. State Senator Jason Rapert filed an amendment on Tuesday that requires Governor Asa Hutchinson to ask federal officials for a waiver that would stop Medicaid funds from going to the reproductive health medications.

After dispersing the amendment to members of the Joint Budget Committee, Senator Rapert announced he would withdraw the language. The Republican from Bigelow said that shortly before the meeting he received a letter from the governor with a written promise.

A letter from Gov. Asa Hutchinson promising to seek a waiver to end Medicaid coverage for emergency contraceptives.
Credit J.R. Davis / The office of the governor.

“The administration will pursue a waiver to eliminate coverage for emergency contraceptives for traditional Medicaid, including Plan B. That takes care of my concerns and concerns of the people who have spoke to me,” said Rapert. “With that there is no reason to pursue the amendment.”

The promise to restrict access to emergency contraceptives in Hutchinson's letter covers the expanded Medicaid population, 17-138 percent of the federal poverty level.

My administration will contact Secretary Burwell in Washington D.C. to request in writing the process under which the State of Arkansas can waive the requirement to cover these drugs for our state’s expanded Medicaid population.

And it also reaches out further to the traditional Medicaid population, the extremely poor and those with severe medical conditions.

Further my administration will pursue a waiver to eliminate coverage for emergency contraceptives from our traditional Medicaid program,. Including Plan B.

The governor’s office already has authority to seek waivers from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services without legislative direction. Federal law requires that private insurance plans cover emergency contraceptives. Arkansas’s version of Medicaid expansion uses private plans rather than traditional Medicaid. However, if approved by federal officials the new coverage restriction could impact Arkansans in the traditional Medicaid program. Senator Rapert has said the medications amount to abortions. Rapert, who is also the founder of Holy Ghost Ministries, has characterized abortion as the murder of little babies.

For any of this to happen the Medicaid budget first needs to be approved by state lawmakers. The Senate is expected to take up the Medicaid appropriations bill on Wednesday.