State Medicaid directors now have it officially from Washington: They must pay for abortions in cases of rape or incest.

The new rules, retroactive to Oct. 1, were disclosed last weekend, but the Health Care Financing Administration formally notified states Tuesday that they will have to comply.Medicaid, a health program for the poor, is financed with state and federal funds on a roughly 50-50 split.

To get federal reimbursement, states must send the Health Care Financing Administration a doctor's certificate stating the abortion was medically necessary.

"Abortions of pregnancies resulting from rape or incest are medically necessary in light of both medical and psychological health factors," Medicaid Director Sally K. Richardson wrote state Medicaid agencies.

Medicaid already covered abortions necessary to save the life of the mother, but an appropriations bill for the Department of Health and Human Services added rape and incest.

Medicaid coverage for other abortions still is barred.

HCFA may audit states to ensure they are paying for these abortions, Richardson said.

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