State Budget Deficits To Force Benefit Reductions in Medicaid Programs
Millions of low-income and elderly U.S. residents may face "siz[e]able cuts" in their Medicaid benefits in 2003 because of increased health care costs and state budget deficits, the Sacramento Bee reports. About 24 states have reported that their Medicaid and health care programs are over budget for the current fiscal year, and most states have spent emergency and tobacco settlement funds that prevented Medicaid benefit reductions in past budget deficits, according to Donna Folkemer, a Medicaid analyst at the National Conference of State Legislatures. A report released by the National Governors Association last month found that state expenditures on Medicaid and other health care programs, which account for 30% of state budgets, rose 13% last year, the largest increase in a decade. States also face an estimated $67 billion in combined budget deficits for the current fiscal year; states will have to raise taxes or make budget reductions in health care and other programs to cover the deficits. Few states can afford to maintain current Medicaid benefits, Folkemer said. NGA Executive Director Raymond Scheppach added, "We will see serious cuts. People will lose eye and dental care. Many more poor people will be stuck with paying part of their health bills. More people will be declared ineligible for Medicaid." Some members of Congress have proposed legislation that would increase the federal government's share of Medicaid costs, but President Bush opposes the legislation (O'Rourke, Sacramento Bee, 12/10).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.