State Budgets In Straits As Health Programs Sap Resources

States are grappling with budget crises and lost revenues that have affected health programs.

The Associated Press/(San Jose, Calif.) Mercury News: "Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger demanded more federal money in a letter to California's congressional delegation Wednesday, as he highlighted a half-dozen programs that cost the state billions. He criticized some of the state's federal representatives for saying California has created its own budget mess." His plan to close the state's $20 billion deficit, announced last week, depends on extracting $6.9 billion in help from the federal government (Thompson, 1/13).

Wisconsin Radio Network: "With $5.9-billion ... spent this fiscal year, Wisconsin's Medicaid programs are one of the largest expenditures in the current state budget." A state lawmaker says "that's why a sweeping audit of the system is needed. She says it's hard to believe problems or even fraud aren't taking place in such a wide reaching program, and the study would help to identify and correct those issues" (Beckett, 1/14).

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Democratic state "legislators and state human services officials are scrambling to refine legislation that Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty will support to save a health care program that serves 35,000 of the state's poorest residents." The General Assistance Medical Care program will end in March without legislation that would have to cut hospital payments, increase taxes, and extract funding from counties (Wolfe, 1/13).

Tulsa World: Oklahoma's state "Medicaid agency will vote Thursday on whether to reduce reimbursement rates to thousands of doctors, hospitals, nursing homes and other service providers." The cuts would hack 3.25 percent off current rates, beginning in April, and is meant to offset declining state revenues that are affecting the agency's budget. The program covers roughly one-fifth of the state's population (Hoberok, 1/14).

Billings Gazette: "The federal health reform bill won't immediately affect Montana's newly expanded children's health insurance program, but it's likely to set up a political battle over future funding of the program, advocates of the Montana program say" (Dennison, 1/13).

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