KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Wisconsin Cuts $600 Million From Medicaid Budget, Still Faces Deficit

The Associated Press reports that the top Wisconsin health official said Thursday that the state is "on track to cut more than $600 million from Medicaid, but even with those reductions, high demand from the poor for insurance benefits could result in up to a $150 million shortfall."

Karen Timberlake, secretary of the Department of Health Services, said the 66 areas targeted for cuts include delaying payments into the budget next year, increasing generic drug usage, reducing rural hospital reimbursement payments and rebidding contracts for state health care programs. At the same time, the state expects a $150 million budget shortfall because of increasing demand under the state children's insurance program, BadgerCare Plus (Bauer, 12/17).

The jobs bill passed by Congress this week could help provide up to $490 million during 2011 and 2012 for Wisconsin's Medicaid program, the Wisconsin State Journal reports. "The Legislature's non-partisan budget office said earlier this week that the BadgerCare Plus Medicaid program had 700,000 participants as of Nov. 30, which is far above the average 638,000 expected for the year" (Stein, 12/17).

Washington is getting federal "bonus" money to help its health care program for low-income children. "On Thursday, officials announced that Washington was among nine states getting extra federal money for meeting performance goals. Washington's cut is $7.5 million," The Associated Press/Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports (12/17). 

California's state insurance program for the children of the working poor was granted a reprieve by federal authorities, who are considering whether to allow a funding mechanism that helps cover the costs of 700,000 children in the program, the Los Angeles Times reports. "That will allow the state's Healthy Families program to continue operating under a plan adopted by the Legislature in September and signed into law by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The $196-million plan included raising about $100 million with a 2.35% tax on health insurance firms serving the poor, a scheme that federal officials had said might not meet regulatory muster" (Bailey, 12/18).

In other Medicaid news, New York authorities say they've settled Medicaid fraud claims "against three home health agencies accused of using hundreds of aides without required training to provide care for elderly, frail and indigent New Yorkers," The Associated Press reports in a separate story. The agencies will return $24 million to Medicaid (12/17).

Finally, in Pennsylvania, the Secret Service Thursday began helping an investigation into the "alleged theft of patient records from the University of Pennsylvania Health System" where records were used to create credit card accounts that ran up about $3,000 in charges, the Philadelphia Daily News reports. "A spokeswoman for the health system said yesterday that 18 medical records had been compromised but that all the victims had been notified and had been offered help repairing their credit issues." A suspect has been arrested in the case (Campisi, 12/18).

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