Few States Use Surplus in Budgets To Restore Health Programs
The Los Angeles Times on Monday examined the "turnaround" in many state budgets for fiscal year 2004-2005 and concerns from some advocates for low-income individuals that the "emerging economic recovery has not translated into more funds" for health care and other social service programs. Thirty-two states expect budget surpluses for the next fiscal year, and according to the National Association of State Budget Officers, state expenditures will increase by an average of 2.8%. However, most state lawmakers have "stuck with hold-the-line budgets that give few constituents much reason to cheer," the Times reports. Mississippi, for example, will eliminate some health benefits for 65,000 seniors with annual incomes as low as $7,000, and Florida will cancel a planned increase in payments to nursing homes that provide care for low-income residents. In addition, Georgia will eliminate health coverage for about 2,000 nursing home patients. Fred Watson, president of the Georgia Nursing Home Association, said, "Now that the economy's better, we'd like to see state funds restored. This just does not make sense." Some advocates for low-income individuals maintain that states will increase expenditures for health care and other social service programs over time. For example, John McDonough, director of Health Care for All, said that Massachusetts has restored health insurance for several thousand low-income residents who lost coverage in FY 2003-2004. "The cuts are over," McDonough said, adding, "The restoration period has begun" (Simon, Los Angeles Times, 6/14).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.