States rely on federal funds to buttress Medicaid programs; Worry about the future

Stateline.org: "Late last year, when Congress' willingness to pass an enormous health care bill still was very much in doubt, states had a more modest goal that should have been easier to achieve. They wanted Congress to pass a 6-month extension of the part of the economic stimulus program that is helping to pay for their Medicaid programs. The Medicaid assistance, set to expire at the end of December, has become a critical component in many state budgets during a time of devastating deficits. So critical, in fact, that two-thirds of the states crafted 2011 budgets assuming that more of it would come through, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. ... Now, with Congress ratcheting up its scrutiny of new spending, it's not at all clear that the Medicaid assistance will ever materialize" (Grovum, 4/4).

The Albany Times Union: The New York "Medicaid program overpaid hospitals $150 million, according to audits released Monday by the state comptroller's office. Thomas P. DiNapoli blamed the payments on 'pervasive problems' with the state Department of Health's billing system and policies. In one case, the state paid an Ohio hospital $1.5 million for a bone marrow transplant that should have cost $117,000, the audit said. ... State regulations require Medicaid to pay the lowest possible reimbursement rate on claims filed by out-of-state hospitals on behalf of New York Medicaid patients" (Crowley, 5/4).

McClatchy/The Miami Herald reports that employees at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami process Medicaid applications for patients "while an outside firm earns millions doing the same work, according to a former group supervisor, whose story is backed up by a Medicaid official. … Many present employees have made similar complaints to management, according to Martha Baker, the head of their Jackson union. The outside firm, Chamberlin Edmonds and Associates of Atlanta, has received $4.8 million for work on a contract approved in November 2008. ... The application work is crucial for the troubled health system, which is expected to lose about $100 million this fiscal year even after drastic measures are taken. Many patients enter Jackson uninsured, and the system works hard to approve them for Medicaid" (Dorschner, 5/2). 

Minneapolis Star Tribune: "DFL lawmakers pushed a step closer to the Legislature's budget endgame Monday, with action in both houses on bills to trim millions of dollars in state spending for health and human services. With just two weeks left in the session, those bills likely will be on the House and Senate floors this week and in conference committee by the weekend to resolve substantial differences, including $40 million more in cuts in the House version. In the House, Republicans have said they probably will use the floor debate to seek deeper spending cuts and avoid expanding Medicaid. To deal with a nearly $1 billion budget shortfall, the Senate bill would cut $114 million in health and human services spending this biennium, compared to a $154 million cut in the House bill and $196 million proposed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Unlike the governor's plan, the House and Senate bills would allow adults without children to retain health coverage on MinnesotaCare, the program for lower-income working people" (Wolfe, 5/3).

Kaiser Health NewsThis article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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