Biden to direct HHS to consider using Medicaid to support women seeking abortions across state lines
President Biden will sign an executive order on Wednesday directing the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to consider using Medicaid to pay the expenses of those who cross state lines to have abortions.
The executive order directs HHS “to consider steps to advance access to reproductive health services, including through Medicaid for patients who travel out of state for reproductive health services,” according to a fact sheet. White House information released Wednesday.
The executive order will be the second Biden has signed since the conservative Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark abortion decision, in June. Biden has come under pressure to take more aggressive action to support abortion access as various states move to restrict the procedure in the wake of the ruling.
A senior Biden administration official told reporters the action would require states where abortion is legal to seek waivers to Medicaid Section 1115 to provide services to women crossing state lines for have an abortion.
The White House did not specify what costs Medicaid could potentially cover. Another senior administration official told The Hill that HHS would soon provide more information on what a waiver might look like, saying it would help “cover some costs” and would largely target low-income women. income who receive Medicaid.
Medicaid funds could not be used to pay for abortions themselves because the Hyde Amendment prohibited the use of federal funds to pay for most abortions.
Biden will sign the new order on Wednesday afternoon during the first meeting of an interagency task force on access to reproductive health care established by his previous executive order. Vice President Harris, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, Attorney General Merrick Garland and other administration officials are expected.
Biden is expected to connect to the meeting virtually as he remains in self-isolation following a rebound infection of COVID-19.
The latest order will also direct HHS to consider providing technical assistance and other actions to ensure health care providers comply with nondiscrimination laws following the ruling overturning Roe, according to the White House fact sheet.
Additionally, the order directs HHS to enhance federal research and data collection to assess the impact Roe’s deletion has on maternal health, the fact sheet says.
The executive order will likely be welcomed by those calling on the administration to take stronger action on abortion access.
However, the Biden administration has so far resisted calls from some Democrats to declare a public health emergency over access to abortion.
The first senior administration official said the White House continues to consider options to protect access to abortion services, but suggested such a statement would yield little in the way of additional resources. or legal authority.
A number of states moved to enact abortion restrictions in the wake of the Roe overturning decision. On Tuesday, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit challenging Idaho’s six-week abortion ban in its first lawsuit since the Supreme Court ruling.