KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

States Struggle With Strapped Budgets, Cuts To Health Programs

The Dallas Morning News: "Lawmakers have been thinking ahead to a massive shortfall, topping $10 billion, that's probably coming when they write the next budget in 2011. But state officials told them Monday that they'll have to fix a hole in the current budget, too. Rising health care costs have dug a hole of about $1.7 billion, the officials said. Texas has about 350,000 more poor people on government health insurance than it did last year ... 'We're running 11 percent ... growth in the Medicaid program,' said Health and Human Services Commissioner Tom Suehs ... Other House members criticized proposed cuts to a start-up fund for community health clinics and to family planning clinics' Medicaid payments" (Garrett, 3/9).

The Arizona Republic: "Lawmakers are poised to vote this week on a state budget that would eliminate health-care coverage for 47,000 children, remove 310,000 Arizonans from the state's Medicaid program and shift juvenile corrections to the counties. And that's the kinder, gentler version of the fiscal 2011 budget. Lawmakers based the plan on the assumption that voters will approve a temporary 1-cent-per-dollar increase in the state sales tax on May 18. ... Hospitals officials worry that tightening the eligibility criteria for the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, which is expected to exclude 310,000 adults from coverage, will fill emergency rooms with the uninsured. ... The budget also calls for eliminating KidsCare to save $18 million. The federally subsidized health-care program serves 47,000 children" (Pitzl, 3/9).

The Miami Herald: "When the Public Health Trust meets Tuesday to consider $165.4 million in budget cuts, one of the toughest debates is likely to be over the proposed closing of Jackson South [hospital], the suburban facility on which the system has pinned its hopes for the past six years. The hospital ... is in the midst of a taxpayer-financed $102 million, four-story expansion that is 40 percent complete. ... Since voters approved a bond issue in 2004 that included the hospital construction funds, Jackson Health System has hoped a new facility would lure customers in the affluent southern suburbs who have commercial insurance. Now, future potential has been trumped by the present grim reality: Forty-five percent of the patients entering South's emergency room are uninsured" (Dorschner, 3/9).

The Associated Press reports that the red ink many states are faced with during a recession means seniors "face new fees or lengthy waiting lists for in-home services like meal deliveries, personal care assistants and visiting nurses. They have just enough assets that they don't qualify for such services through Medicaid, but are likely to end up in nursing homes - at a much higher state and federal cost - without the help of their state-funded programs. … In Connecticut, more than 5,100 clients of its Home Care for Elders Program now pay 15 percent of their services' costs. ... Other states are also struggling with funding for their home care programs, even as aging baby boomers join a population of older people living longer than ever before" (Reitz, 3/8).

In the meantime, the Connecticut Business News Journal reports that "Connecticut can reduce a huge projected increase in long-term health care costs if it can place more patients into home care over the next 15 years," according to a new sstudy, which "projects that a dramatic shift toward non-institutional care would knock more than $900 million off the nearly $3.4 billion increase in annual costs state government faces between now and 2025." More than half of the state's Medicaid budget goes to long-term care (Phaneuf, 3/8).

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