AP/Long Island Newsday Profiles States’ Different Approaches To Address Health Care Issues
The AP/Long Island Newsday on Tuesday examined how state lawmakers are taking "dramatically divergent paths" and using a "mix of approaches" in an attempt to reduce health care costs while decreasing the number of uninsured state residents. Several states in the 1990s expanded their health care programs to cover more children and other uninsured residents. However, rising health care costs in recent years have led some state officials to say that "they soon will be unable to save government-supported care from sweeping changes," the AP/Newsday reports.
In fiscal year 2004, 21 states reduced or restricted enrollment in Medicaid benefit programs, and 14 other states plan to do the same in FY 2005, according to a study from the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured. In addition, some states have implemented such strategies as freezing payments to doctors and hospitals, requiring patients to pay for at least part of their care and employing tactics to reduce prescription drug payments. AP/Newsday profiles health care strategies in Maine, which is moving toward voluntary universal health insurance; Mississippi, which has attempted unsuccessfully to eliminate as many as 50,000 Medicaid beneficiaries from the program; New Hampshire, which has attempted a health care overhaul but has since delayed such reform; Oregon, which has gone from "one of the nation's most generous" health care programs to eliminating as many as 25,000 Medicaid enrollees; and Tennessee, which once expanded benefits beyond the Medicaid program through TennCare but recently has considered reducing the number of residents insured by the state, the AP/Newsday reports.
Howard Berliner -- past New Jersey assistant health commissioner and current professor at the New School Health Policy Research Center at the Robert Milano Graduate School of Management and Urban Policy -- said, "The fact is there are no smiles in this. There's no way to put a bright picture on this. If you're asking me which way the country is going to go, sadly, it's the way of the Tennessees ... not the Maines" (Tanner, AP/Long Island Newsday, 11/23).