KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Louisiana, Oklahoma, Mich., Arizona Plan Medicaid Cuts; N.C.’s Prison Health Costs

The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune: Louisiana "Gov. Bobby Jindal will present his 2010-11 budget request Friday, which is expected to call for cuts to health care, education and other areas of state government as his administration outlines plans for plugging a $1 billion shortfall. ... The general-fund growth is not nearly enough to offset a loss of about $650 million in federal health-care financing, the rising cost of state pensions, automatic pay raises for state workers and inflation in health-care programs."

"Many of the health-care cuts proposed today may not be enacted, as there is a decent likelihood that Congress will approve a temporary fix for the biggest problem facing Louisiana's budget: a $400 million Medicaid cut due to a lower federal match rate and the expiration of the federal economic stimulus law" (Moller, 2/11).

News OK: "Budget cuts at the agency that administers the state's Medicaid program could make it more difficult for patients to get the medical care they need, members of the state's medical association said Thursday. Cuts to Medicaid reimbursements approved by the Oklahoma Health Care Authority on Thursday will mean doctors get paid less for providing care to people enrolled in SoonerCare. Doctors that provide care to SoonerCare patients will see their reimbursement rates cut by 6.75 percent beginning April 1. Nearly 700,000 people are enrolled in the SoonerCare health care program each month. More than half of those enrolled in the state's Medicaid program are children (Bisbee, 2/12).

Modern Healthcare: "Michigan hospitals and physicians are criticizing the fiscal 2011 budget request unveiled by Gov. Jennifer Granholm, which would maintain an 8% cut to Medicaid reimbursement rates implemented in the current budget and create a new assessment on physicians to help the state cover its Medicaid costs. ... Granholm is seeking to address a structural shortfall of about $1.5 billion for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1" (Blesch, 2/11).

Idaho Press-Tribune: "Despite a sharp spike in demand for its services, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare has had to make do with less as the state struggles to keep its budget balanced. ... Medicaid participation in Idaho has risen from 184,000 in 2007 to more than 209,000 as of this week - a 13 percent increase since 2007. ... [Medicaid] eats up the largest chunk of the department's budget and is largely responsible for the agency's rising budget needs each year. ... While matching federal funds have increased, funds provided at the state level have steadily declined during the recession (Nance, 2/12). 

The Yuma (Ariz.) Sun: "Terminally ill patients in Yuma County will have one less choice for end-of-life care after budget cuts to a state agency. Medicaid patients will no longer receive hospice care through the Acute Care AHCCCS Hospice Benefit, through the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System. The cuts to AHCCCS, the state Medicaid program, came with a 15 percent agencywide cut during a special legislative session in December. Local hospice representatives say the cuts will limit options for people at the end of their lives. ... [Executive director John Williams] said people who don't have any health coverage could end up in the hospital," driving up costs (Wilken, 2/11).

WRAL in North Carolina: "The state Department of Correction needs better policies and procedures to control skyrocketing inmate medical costs, according to an audit released Thursday. Medical costs for inmates in state prisons amounted to $231 million last year, with more than $90 million going to outside providers. A review of the DOC's fiscal controls by the State Auditor's Office found that the department allows hospitals and other medical providers to dictate the terms of contracts for inmate medical care, leading to a range of pricing. ... On average, providers billed the DOC at rates 467 percent of reimbursement rates under Medicare or Medicaid, according to the audit" (Browder and Burns, 2/11).

The (Raleigh) News & Observer: "A former legislative leader's under-the-radar maneuver undid a law to cut millions of dollars from the soaring cost of medical care for inmates days after it passed. In August, the N.C. Department of Correction had a bill passed to allow the state to pay less to have inmates treated at hospitals, which were charging at nearly their highest rates. The ink on the governor's signature was barely dry when then-Sen. Tony Rand effectively gutted the bill at the request of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina. The new law requires the department to collaborate with Blue Cross on plans to pay inmate medical claims. As a result of Rand's move, taxpayers continue to pay top dollar for inmate health care" (Neff and Bonner, 2/12).

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