In recent days, conservatives have been stepping up their opposition to any stimulus proposal that favors smart spending over tax cuts for businesses. To push their argument — which most economists have discredited — they have tried to call out wasteful spending in the bill. Last week, for example, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) went on a tirade about funding to revitalize the National Mall.
This week, the focus is on contraceptives. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) has claimed that the package would spend “hundreds of millions on contraceptives.” Yesterday on ABC’s This Week, host George Stephanopoulos asked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) about the provision. Pelosi replied:
PELOSI: Well, the family planning services reduce cost. They reduce cost. The states are in terrible fiscal budget crises now and part of what we do for children’s health, education and some of those elements are to help the states meet their financial needs. One of those – one of the initiatives you mentioned, the contraception, will reduce costs to the states and to the federal government.
Today on his radio show, Rush Limbaugh said that if Pelosi “wants fewer births, I have the way to do this and it won’t require any contraception: You simply put pictures of Nancy Pelosi…in every cheap motel room. … That will keep birthrates down because that picture will keep a lot of things down.” Now on the top of the Drudge Report:
As usual, in addition to throwing out insults, conservatives are distorting and simplifying the facts. Here is the actual text from the stimulus package’s summary:
State Option to Cover Family Planning Services. Under current law, the Secretary has the authority under section 1115 of the Social Security Act to grant waivers to states to allow them to cover family planning services and supplies to low-income women who are not otherwise eligible for Medicaid. The bill would give states the option to provide such coverage without obtaining a waiver. States could continue to use the existing waiver authority if they preferred.
Like other portions of the stimulus bill, this measure would not only aid states, but also provide preventative, cost-saving health care to help low-income women support their families and keep working. It focuses on access to recommended services and contraception to prevent unplanned pregnancies and promote maternal and infant health — not abortion. ThinkProgress has learned that an upcoming Congressional Budget Office report estimates that this change would save $200 million over five years and $700 million over 10.
No one would be forcing states to pay for family planning services. States can now cover low-income women if they get a state waiver, but approval can take a long time. Despite these bureaucratic hassles, 27 states have already “obtained federal approval to extend Medicaid eligibility for family planning services to individuals who would otherwise not be eligible.” This bill would simply allow states to skip the administrative delays.
As Media Matters points out, public support for family planning programs is extremely high.
,Today on MSNBC, Sen. James Clyburn (D-SC) responded to Boehner, saying that the family planning provision is part of the House’s comprehensive effort to address health care in order to cut overall costs:
We just passed the State Children Health Insurance program that will expand health care for children by $4 million, taking us to a total of 11 million children.
We are, in this legislation, looking at other aspects of Medicaid. We are looking at electronically storing health records, so that in five years all of that can be a part of the ordinary course of defense with health care. That saves millions of dollars in money. So I think that Mr. Boehner is looking for one little sound bite rather than looking at the total package here and seeing what it will do for the American people.
,TPMDC reports that a “letter written by Wisconsin health regulators in 2007 noted that some states have had to wait for as long as two years before their request was approved.”