California is one of a handful of states applying to expand its Medicaid family planning services under a provision of the federal health reform law, Politico reports.
In the past, the federal government allowed states to extend Medicaid coverage for family planning services to lower-income residents with incomes too high to qualify for public health insurance programs.
Prior to the health reform law, states undergoing the application process to extend family planning services could wait up to two years to receive approval from CMS, according to a new report by the Guttmacher Institute. In addition, states need to reapply for a waiver to provide the services every few years.
As of Nov. 22, 2010, 22 states were participating in the Medicaid family planning program, according to the Guttmacher Institute report.
New Reform Law Provision
A provision in the federal reform law aims to make it easier for states to expand Medicaid access to family planning services and contraceptives.
Applications for the program now take only a few months. Although states still must seek federal approval for the expanded family planning services, they can do so through a more efficient state Medicaid plan amendment process.
After CMS approves a state's expanded family planning services, the changes can become a permanent part of the state's Medicaid program. For states that participate in the new program, CMS will continue providing a 90% matching rate for approved family planning services.
Over the summer, Cindy Mann, CMS director of Medicaid and State Operations, said that officials were expanding family planning services under the reform law because "the provision of such services has been found to be cost effective for the Medicaid program."
Status of State Applications
In August 2010, CMS made applications available for the reform law's family planning program.
So far, California, South Carolina and Wisconsin have applied for the new program, and South Carolina has received approval for a permanent expansion of family planning services.
Tony Cava, spokesperson for the California Department of Health Care Services, said the state is working to obtain CMS approval to make the Medi-Cal changes retroactive as of July 1, 2010. Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program (Kliff, Politico, 1/24).