KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Ohio May Face Medicaid Cuts And A Loss Of Coverage For Diabetics

In Ohio, a nursing home coalition warns of "life-threatening health risks" if Medicaid reimbursements are cut under Gov. Ted Strickland's proposed budget plan while diabetes patients in the state are threatened by a lack of coverage.

The Columbus Dispatch reports that that "the Skilled Nursing Care Coalition released a statement saying a $300 million reduction in Medicaid reimbursement would force closing dozens of nursing homes and necessitate the transfer of residents to other locations 'causing trauma and life-threatening health risks.' Further, 2,000 jobs would be lost and the quality of care in the remaining homes would suffer, the coalition predicted."

The paper reports: "Strickland 's original budget proposal called for boosting a tax paid by nursing-home operators to $11 a day per bed, up from $6.25. The tax would generate $285 million over the biennium, revenue that would contribute to the state's share of Medicaid costs and trigger the release of additional federal matching funds. Democratic leaders in the House changed the reimbursement formula so that nursing homes would get back all the money they paid. Senate Republicans sweetened the deal, resulting in what would be a $1.2 billion boost over four years compared to Strickland's plan." Strickland responded last week by proposing a return to his original figure. The debate regarding the two-year budget plan now "heads to a showdown" as it approaches a July 1 passage deadline. Meanwhile, "the nursing home group wants to stick with the Senate version, which members said would provide adequate funding and generate $686 million for other Medicaid services through fees paid by nursing homes" (Johnson, 6/25).

Meanwhile, the Plain Dealer reports that diabetes patients are threatened by loss of coverage. The paper reports: "Greater Cleveland diabetes patients are showing health improvements in areas such as blood sugar control, but the gains are threatened by a growing number of people losing insurance coverage."

The Plain Dealer reports: "A nonprofit collaborative called Better Health Greater Cleveland began examining medical records of more than 25,000 diabetes patients in 2007. The program is the first large-scale effort locally to report on how patients and their doctors are managing the chronic disease."

"The reporting is designed to prevent kidney failure and other costly, life-threatening medical complications triggered by uncontrolled diabetes." The paper notes: "The collaborative is still crunching numbers, but preliminary estimates are around $200 million a year in largely preventable local hospital costs, said Dr. Randall Cebul, director of Better Health Greater Cleveland. Already, organizers are reporting progress over the span of a year. About half the patients in 2008 met benchmarks for diabetes control, including blood sugar tests and eye exams, compared with 39 percent in 2007. But some worry about the devastating effect of joblessness and loss of health insurance. Diabetics require high levels of medical maintenance. Many have related health problems and require a dozen medications, in addition to blood sugar testing supplies. The new report shows that from 2007 to 2008, the number of uninsured patients in the group increased 19 percent. That means more than 600 of the 25,724 patient lost health coverage" (Spector, 6/26).

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