States Face Political Risks in Cutting Medicaid Costs
"[S]tate governments are scouring [Medicaid] for savings to protect their bottom lines," a process that "involves delicate tradeoffs -- and political risk," the Wall Street Journal reports. Medicaid costs now take up about 17% of states' general fund budgets and are rising at twice the rate of inflation.
Some states, such as Florida and Vermont, have put "limits on how the state will pay for Medicaid recipients' medical costs," while others, including Tennessee, "have wound up cutting hundreds of thousands of individuals off Medicaid," according to the Journal.
Missouri, which might have been "most aggressive" in imposing cuts, implemented eligibility and program changes last year that resulted in 100,000 beneficiaries losing coverage, the Journal reports. Spearheaded by Gov. Matt Blunt (R), the cuts "have generated political heat," with 68% of state residents opposing the cuts and 33% of state residents approving of Blunt's overall job performance, according to the Journal.
Some health care experts say changes directed at "low-income individuals may not deal with the biggest driver of Medicaid costs: long-term care for a relatively small number of elderly and disabled beneficiaries," the Journal reports.
Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-Ark.), head of the National Governors Association, said, "A lot of governors are looking at what is being done out there, but looking with a cautious eye" (Solomon, Wall Street Journal, 2/16).