MEDICAID: White House Orders States to Restore Benefits
The Clinton administration has ordered states to restore Medicaid benefits "as quickly as possible" to those who were improperly denied them after leaving welfare rolls. Experts estimate that some 100,000 children lost their health insurance after their parents left the welfare system (Gullo, AP/Washington Post, 4/8). The move stems from White House concerns that the states' cuts in Medicaid benefits "were contributing to a significant increase in the number of Americans without health insurance." Last August, Clinton ordered federal officials to investigate whether states had wrongfully excluded people from the federal health program. Nancy-Ann DeParle, HCFA administrator, concluded in December that some states "have not been complying with the law, despite repeated technical assistance and admonitions" from the federal government.
People eligible for Medicaid were excluded for a variety of reasons, including states' lack of emphasis on federal guidelines and federal officials' failure to penalize states for not following the law. In some states, the welfare and Medicaid programs are handled by two different departments that communicate poorly with each other (Pear, New York Times, 4/8). State officials often did not tell people they were eligible and even discouraged enrollment. Figures on how many people were affected are unclear. Federal statistics for 1998 show Medicaid enrollment dropping 200,000 in 1998; a 1999 Families USA study estimates 675,000 people lost Medicaid coverage in 1997 (AP/Washington Post, 4/8).