- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 5, 2015

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Gov. Terry Branstad wants to halt a policy adopted two years ago that threatened to put him in the unusual position of having to sign off on payments for every Medicaid-funded abortion in the state.

A spokesman for the Republican governor said Tuesday that Branstad’s proposed Health and Human Services budget doesn’t include that provision, which was developed in a compromise health care deal by the Democratic-led Senate and Republican-controlled House. At the time, conservatives hoped the requirement would limit the public dollars spent on abortion by putting more scrutiny on the conservative anti-abortion governor.

The policy effectively halted Medicaid payments for abortion in Iowa because medical providers simply stopped submitting claims. A spokesman for the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics - where most of these procedures have been done in past years - said last year that the university wanted to stay out of the politics surrounding the issue.

Iowa’s Medicaid program previously paid for only a small number of abortions each year. Federal guidelines require the state to pay in cases of rape, incest and to save the mother’s life. Iowa’s program also covered some cases of fetal deformity.

The policy impacts reimbursements after the abortions, not authorizing the procedures ahead of time. Branstad spokesman Jimmy Centers said the governor sought the change because Branstad hasn’t been asked to approve any reimbursements.

The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics have performed 34 procedures since July 1, 2013, that would otherwise have been billed to Medicaid, spokesman Tom Moore said. The average cost of such a procedure is $961.

Rep. Matt Windschitl, R-Missouri Valley, said anti-abortion conservatives in the House will continue to seek a way to ensure that public funds don’t go to abortions.

“We’re looking at ways to achieve the same goal maybe in a different fashion with language,” he said. “We want to make sure that taxpayer dollars are not being used for the morally unconscionable procedure of abortion.”

Sen. Amanda Ragan, D-Mason City, said the Senate is using the language recommended by the governor, but expects more negotiation. She said the current policy has “politicized” this issue.

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