Federal Government Should Help States Avoid Public Health Cuts, Los Angeles Times States
The federal government should step in and provide the "immediate fiscal relief" states need to avoid massive cuts to public health programs, a Los Angeles Times editorial states. According to the Times, financial problems are not only occurring in California, where Gov. Gray Davis (D) has proposed cutting public health insurance for 300,000 families to offset an estimated $34.8 billion budget deficit. Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Tennessee, for example, also are cutting or planning to cut public health programs. The editorial suggests that the Bush administration support a proposal by Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) that would give states $75 billion in unrestricted federal funds, as well as a separate proposal that would grant tax credits to small businesses to purchase health insurance. In addition, the editorial says the administration should support a proposal to increase the federal government's share of Medicaid costs, such as the provision approved by the Senate last summer that would have granted $9 billion in relief to states, partly by increasing Medicaid funding. The House did not address such a proposal. The editorial concludes, "The president has not wavered in his determination to keep passing new long-term tax cuts despite the galloping federal deficit, the lack of market response to previous cuts and the dire needs of the states. If Bush and members of Congress want to turn around the economy, they need to think local" (Los Angeles Times, 1/3).
It is "critical" that Congress reform Medicaid because states no longer have the ability to financially support the program, Raymond Scheppach, executive director of the National Governors Association, writes in a San Diego Union-Tribune opinion piece. According to Scheppach, it has been "widely reported" that states are facing the "worst fiscal conditions" since World War II (Scheppach, San Diego Union-Tribune, 1/3). A report released by the National Governors Association in November found that in the most recent fiscal year, states' cash at hand decreased to $14.5 billion from a peak of $48.8 billion in 2000. According to the report, Medicaid and other health care costs account for 30% of states' spending, and those expenses rose 13% last year, the "largest increase in a decade." Further, the report says that states now spend more on Medicaid than any other program except education (California Healthline, 11/26/02). Scheppach concludes, "In the short-run, [states] have no alternative but to cut spending and enact bold and progressive policy initiatives. But in the long-run, Medicaid needs major reform" (San Diego Union-Tribune, 1/3).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.