States, Senior Groups, Pressure Congress To Continue Extra Medicaid Funding

CQ HealthBeat: "Despite doubts that Congress will pass legislation before the August recess to maintain higher levels of Medicaid funding, senior groups say they'll keep putting pressure on lawmakers to act this month. …  In recent days AARP circulated a letter to each member of Congress calling on them to immediately pass legislation that would extend the higher levels of Medicaid funding afforded to states as part of the economic stimulus law. The funding expires Dec. 31 and AARP, governors, hospitals and nursing homes are all advocating an extension until June 30, 2011 of those higher levels because of shortfalls in state revenues associated with the economic downturn." Advocates worry about possible cuts to home- and community-based services (Reichard, 7/21).

Kansas Health Institute: "The U.S. Senate today advanced a bill that would extend unemployment benefits and homebuyer tax credits. But the measure did not include the additional Medicaid dollars sought by Kansas and about 30 other states that need the money to keep their budgets balanced. … Earlier versions of the bill included the extra Medicaid assistance for states but that and other major provisions were stripped out as Democratic leaders bargained for support. Most Republicans, and at least one Democrat, fought the bill saying it would add too much to the federal deficit" (7/21).

The Associated Press/Bloomberg BusinessWeek: "Gov. Bill Richardson's administration said Wednesday it will cut spending on New Mexico programs and services, including public schools, by about 3 percent to help erase a budget shortfall," but, by law, "Medicaid and some services to the developmentally disabled [are exempted] from the reductions. ... New Mexico built its budget on an expectation that Congress would continue higher Medicaid matching payments, which were part of an economic stimulus package. Now it appears the state will get much less than it had anticipated," according to Katherine Miller, secretary of the Department of Finance and Administration (Massey, 7/21).

The Associated Press: Arkansas' Surgeon General Dr. Joe Thompson told a state "legislative panel that between 80 and 90 percent of the state's 500,000 uninsured will become covered under the health care law. Thompson said most of those will come from an expansion of the Medicaid program. That growth will exacerbate the state's shortage of doctors, particularly in rural areas, Thompson said, [while] the health care overhaul gives the state an opportunity to address the shortage of doctors in rural areas, a problem he said has existed for years" (DeMillo, 7/21).

Health News Florida: "Federal prosecutors in Tampa are reportedly checking whether Medicaid HMOs other than WellCare Health Plans submitted less-than-honest claims in past years. It is not clear how serious or broad the inquiry is; only one person has confirmed that he was questioned, and the U.S. Attorney's Office declines to discuss it. But this report comes after recent independent audits of eight Florida Medicaid HMOs besides WellCare found that all were overpaid in 2006 and owed refunds to the state, according to documents provided by the Agency for Health Care Administration after a public records request. AHCA says another round of audits is planned for October" (Saunders and Gentry, 7/21).

The Hill: "Medicaid is wasting hundreds of millions of dollars each year purchasing name-brand drugs in cases where a cheaper generic is also available, according to a report released Wednesday by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a conservative think-tank. After examining two-thirds of the $21.8 billion Medicaid spent on pharmaceuticals last year, AEI researchers identified 20 branded drugs commonly purchased by the program for which a generic option exists. The savings if Medicaid had purchased the generics instead of the branded drugs? $271 million, AEI estimates" (Lillis, 7/21).

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