States Struggle With Budget Cuts, Increased Medicaid Pressure

News outlets look at developments in Medicaid issues. The Associated Press/ABC News reports on Louisiana: "Sen. Mary Landrieu defended the Senate's version of health care overhaul legislation — and language in it that provides up to $365 million in Medicaid money for Louisiana — as she discussed what her fellow Democrats should do after losing a crucial Senate seat to a Massachusetts Republican." Landrieu said she supports continuing efforts to reach a consensus on reform. Landrieu's support for the Senate health overhaul, which came after the provision for Medicaid money for Louisiana was added, led to criticism from opponents that Democratic leaders bought her vote (McGill, 1/20).

The Kansas Health Institute reports on a Medicaid call-in center in the state: "A toll-free help line for Medicaid clients and their medical providers that was slated to be dismantled due to budget pressures will remain open, officials announced today. HP Enterprise Services, the contractor that processes Medicaid claims for the state, has agreed to accept reduced rates for providing customer service calls in exchange for having its annual contract with the state extended to 2013 with options to extend again in 2014 and 2015. ... Shutting down the call center was expected to save the agency about $250,000 of the $1.1 million it was ordered to trim from its operating budget." Reports of its' closure produced concern "among doctors, pharmacists and other providers who use it to help resolve billing questions and other matters" (1/20).

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that California leaders are in Washington "for the first round of visits this year to press the federal government for billions of dollars to help the state's beleaguered budget. In his budget proposal, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has assumed that the state will get $6.9 billion in federal aid for health care, incarcerating undocumented felons and special education, among other requests. ... If that money does not materialize, Schwarzenegger has proposed the wholesale elimination of programs for the poor, sick and elderly" (Buchanan, 1/20).

The Detroit News reports on efforts to provide care for the uninsured in Michigan: "Oakland County commissioners are expected to take up a proposal in February that would send almost $700,000 of county tax money to the state to provide managed health care for 2,000 uninsured residents. ... The deal calls for the state to return the money to county hospitals for care for the uninsured through a company called Oakland Health Plan Inc." The money is expected to be supplemented by $1 million in federal matching money (Chambers, 1/21).

The Macon Telegraph reports on mental health in Georgia: "Central State Hospital in Milledgeville, Georgia's largest hospital for people with mental illnesses and developmental disabilities for decades, will move away from treating most mental illnesses and close a major building, the state announced Wednesday. The state will keep operating its nursing home on the Central State campus, as well as its maximum security facility for mentally ill patients. Patients with severe physical disabilities still will have a home on campus, even though new patients are still being diverted to other facilities now because of a November federal review that found recurring safety issues. That diversion has been in place for mental health patients, too. Now, it will essentially become permanent for them" (Fain, 1/21).

The Deseret News reports on a new poll that finds a majority of Utah residents are willing to pay higher taxes in order not to have state budget cuts: "The results come as GOP Gov. Gary Herbert is calling for lawmakers to balance an estimated $700 million budget shortfall without raising taxes, and as lawmakers are predicting another round of severe cuts. But 53 percent of Utahns surveyed by Dan Jones & Associates said they would rather pay more in taxes than see education, human services and other state programs cut for a second year in a row" (Roche and Raymond, 1/21).

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