Many states being forced to consider...

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-23-2003
Many states being forced to consider...
Mon, 04-28-2003 - 4:07pm
...Medicaid cuts

Close to 2 million could lose benefits, advocacy group says

Monday, April 28, 2003



WASHINGTON -- Millions of low-income Americans face the loss of health insurance or sharp cuts in benefits, such as coverage for prescription drugs and dental care, under proposals now moving through state legislatures across the country.

State authorities and health-policy experts say the cuts will increase the number of uninsured, threaten recent progress in covering children and impose severe strains on hospitals, doctors and nursing homes.

But those officials, confronting a third straight year of fiscal crisis, say they have no choice but to rein in Medicaid, the fast-growing program that provides health insurance for 50 million people.

Many state officials are pleading for federal help as they face an array of painful trade-offs, often pitting the needs of impoverished elderly people who must have prescription drugs and long-term care against those of low-income families seeking basic health coverage.

The issue is already roiling state legislatures. Almost every state has made or is planning cuts in benefits, eligibility or payments to health care providers, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal research and advocacy group, estimated last month that as many as 1.7 million Americans could lose coverage altogether under proposals advanced by governors or adopted by state legislative committees this year.

Many more who keep their coverage may see it curtailed. Several large states, including California, Florida and Ohio, are considering proposals to eliminate dental and vision coverage for adults. Mississippi and Oklahoma have reduced the number of prescriptions for which they will pay. Other states, among them Kentucky and Massachusetts, are moving to tighten eligibility or admissions criteria for long-term care services.

In response to the turmoil in the states, moderate Republicans on Capitol Hill have joined Democrats in seeking legislation that would provide additional federal aid for Medicaid, which is financed by the federal government and the states.

"You can't have cuts of the magnitude the states are undertaking without it ultimately harming health care for some of the most vulnerable low-income citizens in this country," said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a chief sponsor of the legislation.

The Bush administration has opposed such legislation. Administration authorities and many House Republicans say Medicaid, created in 1965 as a pillar of the Johnson administration's Great Society agenda, is unsustainable in its current form. Despite recent efforts to slow its growth, the cost of Medicaid has increased 25 percent in two years and more than 50 percent since 1997, and enrollment is rising at the fastest pace in a decade.

Rather than simply pouring more money into the program, administration officials say they want to revamp it by giving states expanded power to run it.

Short-term financing relief "does not solve the fundamental problem," said Bill Pierce, a spokesman for Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson. "That's why the secretary put forward the proposal he did. It changes the funding mechanism and gives them greater opportunity to craft benefits that are more flexible benefits."

Critics say the administration proposal is an effort to limit federal responsibility for the program by converting part of it into a block grant.

Medicaid, which now costs more than $250 billion a year in federal and state money, is the fundamental health safety net for low-income and disabled Americans.

Medicaid insures one-fifth of all children in the United States and helps pay for two-thirds of all nursing home residents, many of them from middle-class families whose assets have been depleted by nursing home costs, which average more than $50,000 a year.

© 1998-2003 Seattle Post-Intelligencer

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-18-2000
Tue, 04-29-2003 - 9:24am
Must be those compassionate conservatives at work.



iVillage Member
Registered: 04-16-2003
Tue, 04-29-2003 - 6:01pm
Isn't compassionate conservative an oxymoron?

I just got requalified for my states low income/handicapped assistance (I don't qualify for medicaid). The number of people waiting for medicare assistance has increased six fold over last year. Benefits have been cut, but most alarming is I could have been in a foreign country. Of the two dozen plus people waiting I was the only person who spoke english.

Avatar for nmillerhhi
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-25-2003
Fri, 05-02-2003 - 1:31am
I agree with you about feeling like you're in a foreign country. I just left an area where so many aliens had moved in that the lower to middle class residents were having to move. The local low income clinics no longer had appointments available for Americans. Affordable housing was filled to capacity with aliens. In fact, entire apartment complexes became nothing but aliens living 15-20 in an apartment to save money to send home. Jobs were filled with them. The school hired 20 special teachers for them. That town of 25,000 had approximately 8,000 aliens move in within 2 years. 95% of the aliens were illegal. I worked in a payroll department and it was a joke. Sure, they presented papers (social security cards and green cards) to make copies of for the I-9 paperwork, but the colors of the cards would be a bit off and sometimes the print was crooked. It costs $25 to get a social security card and a green card. They arrived on a 2 week visa, had documentation the next day and blended into the community.


iVillage Member
Registered: 03-18-2000
Fri, 05-02-2003 - 8:35am
Not surprised. I lived in S.Calif. many years & I've seen the strain put on services by non-residents. It's ironic but many people, US citizens, close to border towns go across the border for dental & medical, 'cause they don't have insurance & such services are so much cheaper there.

Here in Conn. once prosperous cotton mill towns have been stripped of their industry, gone South, now many are filled either with older retired people, who once worked in the mills, or Hispanics. Drugs are a big problem, heroin specifically. It's sad seeing old Victorian style homes slit into uncared for apartments.

Will be interesting to see how Gephardt does with health care plan. I foresee a major attack from the Rep.'s but something needs to be done.



iVillage Member
Registered: 04-16-2003
Fri, 05-02-2003 - 10:23am
Thanks, I was trying to figure out how so many were able to sign up for social services; never thought about false documentation. How long will it take for our representatives to realize that we are being invaded and that to prevent higher deficits they should do something about it. Unfortunately, I live in Tancredo's congressional district and he is a lonely voice in the fight against illegal immigrants. Last I heard Bush wanted to reward the illegals by granting them a legal status. Funny his home state is Texas.
iVillage Member
Registered: 04-16-2003
Fri, 05-02-2003 - 10:32am
Indeed something needs to be done for hurting Americans. I don't think GWB, who has his bandwagon rolling, is going to pay much attention to the state of the nation. I can already his his speach, "Because wouldn't pass the proposed tax cuts with due haste, the economy hasn't received the ...." I am further concerned that his methods of "pay-back" for those who disagree with him will frighten the opposition into silence. In all my years in this country I have never seen such an attack on free speach. What with "national security" and "classified" claimed for every request, it's amazing anything is up for discussion.