March 2012

A mystery caller evaluation of Medicaid staff responses about state coverage of abortion care

Dennis A, Blanchard K. A mystery caller evaluation of Medicaid staff responses about state coverage of abortion care. ​Women's Health Issues. 2012 Mar;22(2):e143-8.

Objectives: The Hyde Amendment prohibits federal Medicaid funding for abortion except when a woman is seeking an abortion for a pregnancy that is the result of rape or incest, or that threatens her life. We investigated how Medicaid staff in 17 states responded to inquiries about coverage for abortion in the few circumstances that qualify for federal Medicaid funding.

Methods: Using a mystery caller approach, we surveyed Medicaid staff about the availability of abortion coverage, the process for obtaining coverage, and the associated costs for an abortion in circumstances of rape and life endangerment in five states where Medicaid coverage should be available to cover most abortions and in 12 states with restrictions on the circumstances under which Medicaid funding can be used for abortion.

Findings: We were able to complete 82% of surveys. Medicaid staff definitively provided information about the availability of coverage that was consistent with state policies in 64% of surveys. However, 52% of staff reported that coverage could be difficult to obtain and that rigorous documentation of the circumstances of the abortion was required. Information about copays for abortion was given in 78% of surveys. We subjectively rated the caller's experience with Medicaid staff as excellent during 32% of the surveys, adequate in 61% of surveys, and poor in 7% of surveys.

Conclusion: Medicaid staff provided inconsistent information that was often discouraging of women seeking abortion coverage, suggesting that women may have difficulties obtaining accurate information about Medicaid coverage of abortion, which may deter access to care.

Tagged with Abortion, United States