KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

As States Approach New Budget Years, Many Will Be Cutting Medicaid

States have taken a variety of trims, from stopping payments for circumcisions in Colorado to reducing payments for rehabilitation services in Kansas to increased co-payments in California.

The Associated Press/MSNBC: States Stop Circumcisions Funds Amid Budget Crisis
A nationwide debate about circumcisions for newborn boys, combined with cash-strapped public health budgets, has Colorado taking sides with 17 other states that no longer fund Medicaid coverage of the once widely accepted procedure. For years, Colorado lawmakers considered doing away with funding for circumcisions under Medicaid - a move that would save the state $186,500 a year (Moreno, 6/24).

Kansas Health Institute News: SRS Plans 3 Percent Cut In Medicaid Reimbursements
Representatives of several social service providers have been told this week by state welfare officials to expect a 2.5 percent reduction in their Medicaid reimbursements effective July 1. Officials with the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services are expected to officially announce the cuts on Friday. The reduction would be separate from an earlier 3 percent cut to SRS-administered grants and contracts announced last week (Ranney, 6/23). 

The Texas Tribune: Perry's Rainy Day Fund? Used Up, Say Some Republicans
Lawmakers have already drawn down $3.1 billion of the fund's roughly $9.5 billion reserve to cover a deficit in the current budget. Then, to make the 2012-2013 budget balance, the state's projected share of expected Medicaid costs is underfunded by $4.8 billion - for many, a conservative estimate. That means when lawmakers come back in two years - and without a change in federal law diminishing the state's obligation to Medicaid or an increase in Rainy Day revenue from an improved economy - they will need most of the remaining $6 billion to pay another past due bill (Smith, 6/24).

The Arizona Republic: Arizona Caregivers Plead For Respite-Care Funds
Hundreds of parents, grandparents and others who care for the developmentally disabled implored state officials Thursday to scrap a proposal to slash respite care, saying their lives and those of their loved ones are at stake. … At a Phoenix forum hosted by the state's Medicaid program, respite-care workers said they were concerned about job losses and agencies folding if the service cuts came on top of a combined 10 percent reduction in the rates the state pays for a variety of contracted services (Reinhart, 6/24).

Denver Post: Finding Help For High-Cost Patients Key To Trimming Health Care Tab
[Ruby] Gallegos' mental health issues, intertwined with high blood pressure, bowel trouble and obesity, make her a very expensive patient for the state of Colorado. As a high-risk Medicaid user, Gallegos personifies one of the maddeningly irreducible statistics of health care costs: The sickest 1 percent of patients spend nearly 30 percent of a health system's money. The pattern holds true even in private insurance systems. ... With hundreds of thousands more Coloradans joining Medicaid under health care reform in the next three years, and millions nationwide, the race is on to find and treat these high-cost patients before they arrive at emergency rooms and swamp the system (Booth, 6/24).

Stateline: What Welfare Cutbacks Say About The Wisdom Of Block Grants
A handful of states are still hammering out their budgets for the year that begins July 1, but all across the country, welfare and other social programs are getting hit. ... But states have a great deal of flexibility in making cuts to welfare, particularly when compared with Medicaid, the joint state and federal health insurance program that makes up the single largest portion of total state spending (22 percent). ... Welfare advocates warn, however, that the TANF experience should raise red flags to those who want to make Medicaid into a block grant. They say the reason government is saving money is because families who need help are not being served (Prah, 6/24).

HealthyCal: March Budget Cuts Rolling Out Now
Millions of Californians will see smaller aid checks, fewer services and higher costs as painful budget cuts ripple across every corner of the state in the coming weeks. The steep reductions were approved by Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers in March as part of their bid to get a head start on taming a $25.4 billion deficit in time for the start of the fiscal year July 1. ... Statewide, the March budget slimmed Medi-Cal services by $1.5 billion, affecting the health care coverage of 7.7 million Californians. Among the changes: co-payments for everything from routine checkups ($5), to emergency room visits ($50) to hospital stays ($100 a day - maximum of $200) (Gardner, 6/23). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.