A Georgia attack on choice: New policy is penny and pound foolish

A Georgia attack on choice: New policy is penny and pound foolish

August 10th, 2013 in Opinion Times

Georgia on Friday became the latest state to whittle away at family choice -- and this cut didn't even receive legislative votes.

Instead, the Georgia Department of Community Health made a new policy Thursday to ban coverage of abortions, except when the life of the mother is in danger, for those enrolled in the state employee health insurance plan. That's even more restrictive than federal guidelines for Medicaid, which include abortions for rape and incest.

The policy, which takes effect in January, completely bypasses state lawmakers, who didn't take action on similar legislation earlier this year. And Gov. Nathan Deal took credit for finding a way to accomplish the bypass for what he called a worthy goal.

"Today's vote by the Department of Community Health board shows our state's commitment to reducing the number of abortions in our state by ensuring that state taxpayers aren't paying for a procedure that many find morally objectionable," Deal said Friday.

Deal is electioneering, not saving money.

Of the 672,000 people in the Georgia state health plan, 366 sought abortions is fiscal 2011, a decline from 545 in 2009, according to data provided by the Department of Community Health. The net insurance payments for abortions declined to $213,000 in 2011 from $343,000 two years earlier.

But here are other numbers to consider.

About half of all pregnancies in the United States each year--more than 3 million--are unintended, and three in 10 women by age 45 will have had an abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights. Family planning services provided at publicly funded centers saved the federal and state governments an estimated $7.6 billion in 2010.

In other words, nationally, every dollar invested in helping women avoid pregnancies they did not want to have saved $5.68 in Medicaid expenditures that otherwise would have been needed, according to Guttmacher.

There's no reason to believe those same savings are not in state health plans if those plans and private insurers are not prohibited from providing ordinary family planning services -- including abortion.