KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Federal Officials Extend Ariz. Medicaid Program While Reviewing New Plan

In other state Medicaid news, doctors in Washington state are suing to stop a new rule that limits enrollees' visits to the emergency department and Gov. Cuomo's administration dismisses a proposal for N.Y. to pay for transgender surgery.

Arizona Republic: Feds Extend AHCCCS, Still Reviewing Cuts
Federal health officials will extend Arizona's current Medicaid program beyond Saturday, when it is due to expire, to allow more time to consider a state plan with sweeping cuts. Two key program cuts already have won federal approval, and more than 100,000 Arizonans are expected to lose health coverage in the first year as a result. The remaining cuts affect thousands more, including an estimated 30,000 low-income parents who are expected to lose coverage by next July (Reinhart, 10/1).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: State Wants To Shift Some Medicaid Recipients To Lower-Cost Plans
To fill a half-billion dollar budget hole in state health programs, Gov. Scott Walker's administration wants to raise premiums sharply for some families and shift hundreds of thousands of residents to lower-cost state plans or private plans. Officials said they do not intend to leave participants without any path to coverage. State officials said there is now a $554 million estimated deficit — $110 million more than previously projected — through June 2013 in state Medicaid health programs, which provide everything from doctor's visits for poor families to nursing home care for the elderly (Stein, 9/30).

Associated Press/(Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn.) Pioneer Press: Wis. Officials Announce Sweeping Medicaid Changes
State health officials released a sweeping package of Medicaid reforms Friday that would tighten eligibility requirements and could result in tens of thousands of people losing their coverage. The plan is designed to save the state more than $500 million by mid-2013, state Department of Health Services Secretary Dennis Smith said. Agency officials said they didn't have any estimates on how many Medicaid recipients might be pushed off the rolls, but agency documents said more than 50,000 people could lose their BadgerCare Plus and BadgerCare Plus Core coverage and 215,000 could be moved into programs with reduced benefits (Richmond, 9/30).

Reuters: Fewer Orthopedic Surgeons Seeing Kids
Orthopedic surgeons are much more hesitant to see kids with broken bones than they were a decade ago, suggests new research from California. When contacted by telephone, more than half of orthopedic practices wouldn't schedule an appointment for a kid with a recently-broken arm who had private insurance. What's more, almost all refused appointments to kids covered by Medicaid, the government-run health insurance program for the poor (Pittman, 9/30).

The Seattle Times: Doctors Sue State Over Limits On ER Visits
Doctors have filed suit to stop a new state rule limiting payments for emergency-room visits by Medicaid patients. The lawsuit adds fuel to an already acrimonious relationship between doctors, hospitals and Medicaid officials over the rule, scheduled to go into effect Saturday. The rule limits payments to three visits a year for any of the 700 diagnoses the state says are typically not emergencies, including chest pain, abdominal pain and early-pregnancy hemorrhage — conditions doctors argue must be evaluated because they could in fact prove to be genuine emergencies (Ostrom, 9/30).

The Associated Press/The Wall Street Journal: NY Administration Rejects Medicaid Sex-Changes
A day after an advisory panel raised the idea of using Medicaid to pay for transgender surgery, Gov. Andrew Cuomo's health department dropped it. "No consideration is being given to any change in current state policy and any proposal to have gender reassignment surgery funded by Medicaid would be rejected," said state Health Commissioner Dr. Nirav Shah (9/30).

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