KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

In Tight Budgets, States Cutting Back On Medicaid Programs For Disabled

(Milwaukee, Wis.) Journal Sentinel: "[M]ore than 1.1 million people in Wisconsin depend on Medicaid health programs for the poor. Medicaid provides health care for one in five Wisconsin residents; the group of programs has expanded faster here over the past nine years than in any state except Arizona. That has placed health care among the state's fastest-rising costs for taxpayers. ... To keep up, the state Department of Health Services is requesting $675 million more for Medicaid and other programs over the next two years, a huge part of the more than $3 billion shortfall in the two-year state budget that awaits the next governor." The candidates for governor, Republican Scott Walker and Democrat Tom Barrett "have not said how they'll cover the full costs of Medicaid" (Stein and Marley, 10/11).

The (Columbia, S.C.) State: "More than 656,000 people, or 15 percent of all South Carolinians, could lose access to their doctors and prescription drugs if state lawmakers refuse to play by rules laid out by the federal government for health care. Advocates said this week that denying those families and children - many of them the newly poor - combined with the loss of $4 billion in federal money are the consequences the state could face if it follows the directives laid out in a scathing letter from its most powerful legislator. Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell, R-Charleston, told Emma Forkner, director of the state Health and Human Services Department, that when the money provided by the state for is Medicaid is gone, the insurance program for the poor must simply stop providing services. Cash from the federal government requires a state match" (Wenger, 10/11).  

Texas Tribune: Thousands of Texans with disabilities "fear losing their services because of budget cuts demanded of state agencies. Advocates say the Department of Aging and Disability Services' baseline budget request eliminates financing for more than 13,000 people - the majority of them waiting to receive so-called Medicaid waiver services in private homes, group homes or other community settings. Agency officials say an 'unknown number' of people already receiving the services could lose them. ... Lawmakers would have to approve another $317 million off of the agency's budget wish list - called 'exceptional items' - to keep the services intact, a pipe dream when the state is facing an estimated $21 billion shortfall and has asked agencies to submit options for cutting their budgets another 10 percent" (Ramshaw, 10/12).

But Stateline reports that, in Tennessee, things are looking brighter: "After lagging behind the rest of the country for years, Tennessee is catching up fast when it comes to changes in its health care system aimed at elderly and disabled residents. More of them are getting the assistance they need in their homes - at a much lower cost than at a nursing home. A lot of this change is the direct result of efforts by Governor Phil Bredesen. ... Nearing the end of his eight years in office (he is required to leave due to term limits this year), Bredesen decided to focus on getting Tennessee off the bottom rung in rankings of states that offer consumers choices in long-term care. Just a few years earlier, only a few hundred Tennesseans were able to get Medicaid funding for anything but a nursing home. Now, it is one of a handful of bellwether states that offer a broad range of alternatives to nursing home care" (Vestal, 10/12).

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