A few days ago, we learned that Arkansas Works, a proposed Arkansas health insurance plan for poor people, must include coverage for contraceptives that in rare cases cause abortions. The legislature is debating this proposal that would go into effect in addition to our current Medicaid program.
Arkansas Works is a proposed continuation of the Private Option which was passed in 2013 and is set expire at the end of 2016. Under the Private Option, over 267,000 Arkansans have signed up to receive tax-funded health insurance purchased from private insurance companies with public funds.
Last year, the Obama administration began requiring health insurance plans to pay for all eighteen types of FDA-approved contraception in order to comply with Obamacare. The Obama administration has put Arkansas and other states in a very difficult position. Arkansas has two primary choices. If Arkansas refuses to pay for contraceptives that cause abortions the federal government will withhold funding for the Private Option and 267,000 Arkansans will lose their health insurance coverage. If Arkansas approves Arkansas Works and accepts the federal funds, we will have to pay for contraceptives that can cause abortions.
Family Council has been on record for quite some time as opposing emergency contraceptives—also known as “Plan B,” and “the morning after pill,”—which can cause an abortion by preventing a fertilized egg from implanting in the womb. These are the types of contraceptives being funded.
I met with Governor Hutchinson yesterday, and he read me a letter he has drafted in which he has promised to seek a waiver from the federal government exempting Arkansas from the contraceptive requirement. This is a positive move that previous governors would never have taken, and we deeply appreciate the Governor’s intent and effort. However, the Obama administration’s commitment to the pro-abortion agenda makes a waiver much less likely now than it will be if a more pro-life president takes office in January. If passed, Arkansas Works will replace the current Private Option and take effect in July of this year.
Our lawmakers are faced with some very difficult choices. They can end funding of abortion-causing contraceptives through the Private Option by letting the entire program expire at the end of 2016. This would leave 267,000 people without health care, and under the Affordable Care Act those people would be forced to buy insurance out of their own pockets or find it elsewhere.
Another possibility would be that the Legislature could offer amendments or alternatives to Arkansas Works that might result in no public funds paying for abortion-causing contraceptives and still maintain health coverage for the 267,000 Arkansans who were on the Private Option. Achieving this would be difficult since Arkansas might have to pay for it all and the Affordable Care Act still might apply the contraceptive mandate to insurance plans bought solely with other funds.
Finally, the Legislature could approve Arkansas Works and hope for a waiver if not now, maybe in January when a new presidential administration takes over.
Lawmakers I have spoken to are not pleased with any of the alternatives. Please pray that every member of the legislature, the governor, and all who are concerned will vote their consciences—as they can best see what is right—on this issue.
Below is some additional information on this issue. (more…)