DES MOINES — Iowa's new policy that the governor must sign off on reimbursement approval for Medicaid-funded abortions remains untested one month in.

Tim Albrecht, a spokesman for Gov. Terry Branstad, said no reimbursement claims for abortions have been submitted since the rule took effect July 1. Branstad signed the legislation — thought to be unique to Iowa — in June.

Iowa's Medicaid program each year covers a small number of abortions, for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest; because of fetal deformity; or to protect a mother's life. Under the new policy, abortion rights opponent Branstad will have to approve those payments.

Without a test case, it's hard to know how the process will work. Albrecht declined to answer questions about the criteria Branstad will use to review the funding requests or if he will take advice from the Iowa Department of Human Services, saying only that Branstad will deal with the claims on a “case by case basis.”

“We do not engage in hypotheticals and will need to examine each claim for taxpayer-funded reimbursement on its own merits,” Albrecht wrote in an email.

Jill June, president of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, said she thought there should be more clarity on how the new process will work. “I think the public deserves nothing less than that,” June said. “Otherwise the public is left to wonder if the governor is in a good mood or not.”

Iowa Medicaid Enterprise Director Jennifer Vermeer said the claim process has not changed for medical providers, who will still need to submit paperwork verifying the abortion, along with other medical records, to the Department of Human Services.

The change in reimbursement for abortions was crafted this spring in the politically divided Legislature. The rule is part of a complex health care bill that included accepting additional federal dollars to expand low-income health care in the state — a key priority for Democrats.

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