Rapert still backs private option after getting clarification that morning after pill is federally mandated coverage | Arkansas Blog

Friday, April 15, 2016

Rapert still backs private option after getting clarification that morning after pill is federally mandated coverage

Posted By on Fri, Apr 15, 2016 at 10:57 PM

click to enlarge RAPERT: Support for "Arkansas Works" is "firm." - BRIAN CHILSON
  • Brian Chilson
  • RAPERT: Support for "Arkansas Works" is "firm."

As if there wasn't enough drama over the Medicaid budget, Sen. Jason Rapert yesterday raised concerns about the fact that private option plans cover emergency contraception. Rapert said that the morning after pill is "the killing of a little baby."

Although Rapert said that he only found about it yesterday, the morning after pill has always been covered by the private option — the state's unique version of Medicaid expansion, using Obamacare funds to purchase health insurance for low-income Arkansans. Rapert, a stalwart backer of "Arkansas Works," the governor's plan to continue the private option, said yesterday that "it's going to be really hard for me to move forward." 

However, after I labored over a close reading of Rapert's Facebook post on the matter, it became clear that he would only oppose Arkansas Works if it turned out that the state was choosing to offer the morning after pill rather than operating under the restrictions of federal law. Spoiler alert: private option plans have to cover the morning after pill under federal law. So Rapert is back on board with Arkansas Works, and mad at federal law and Obama. It's his sweet spot. 

Gov. Asas Hutchinson said that the matter was resolved: "I've had a communication with Sen. Rapert, who visited with [Department of Human Services Director] Cindy Gillespie, and he's satisfied as to where we are in reference to the questions he asked to the Joint Budget Yesterday. He's prepared to vote...for Arkansas Works."

The issue is that every private health insurance plan in the country, including private option plans (and presumably including Rapert's own plan!) is mandated by federal law to cover emergency contraception. The coverage applies only with a prescription; an over-the-counter purchase would not be covered. There are some very limited exceptions to that requirement, such as for religious institutions, but there would no such exception for the private option.

I attempted to reach Rapert for comment but didn't hear back. But John Lyon of the Arkansas News Bureau caught up with him

“I don’t like it, I disagree with it and deplore it, but the federal government says we must include the coverage,” he said.

Since Arkansas does not have a choice regarding the coverage, Rapert said his support for Arkansas Works “is firm.”

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