If states begin to cut Medicaid benefits, does this mean more consumers will be turning to their credit cards to cover the gaps? That’s the fear of some analysts who say a perfect storm is brewing on the healthcare horizon.
The federal government recently announced plans to expand its insurance program to as many as 17 million more Americans. This prompted several states to cut their Medicaid benefits or pay healthcare providers less.
States have historically adjusted their individual programs based on what the current financial climate looked like. Leaner economic times meant higher prices and enrollment costs; conversely, better times mean better pricing. This time, though, these cuts could significantly affect more than 60 million Americans. Limiting services is a cross to bear for a growing number of states and consumers, i.e., taxpayers are none too happy.
Adding to the misery is the imminent federal health law that should be in effect by 2014. The cuts to facilities and physicians could mean more leave the industry for one that’s not so greatly affected by the federal government. There might be a save within the tangled tape. Former New York Medicaid Director Deborah Bachrach said,
The law may counter that effect with its funding boosts to community health centers and its temporary rate increases for primary care doctors, beginning in January 2013.
Unfortunately, many of the cuts have already been instituted. Illinois now limits all of its enrollees to just four prescriptions a month with a co pay for prescriptions for adults. Its new eligibility guidelines instantly knocked out more than 25,000 Illinois residents. It also opted to cut in other ways too, including non emergency dental care for adults.
Down south in Alabama, pays were cut for both doctors and dentists by 10%. Further, eyeglasses are no longer covered in that state. Meanwhile, its neighbor to the east, Florida, cut funding for all hospitals have treat patients who have Medicaid. Many may recall the 12.5% cut made about a year ago – these further cuts are jeopardizing many Floridians. Not only that but adults who are not pregnant are allowed only two primary-care visits a month. Emergency room visits are now limited to just six a year.
In California, a new fee of $15 has been tacked on to all emergency room visits and reimbursements have meant a $150 million cut for private hospitals and just under $42 million for those hospitals in the public sector.
A few of the other states that are facing cuts include, Colorado, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire and South Dakota. Some could have new guidelines in place as early as this fall.
Interestingly, a few states have increased Medicaid benefits, including Arizona, which will boost pay for mental health providers next April. Then there are those who are simply looking for a way back after a tough recession; they will be finding ways to at least bring prices down to where they were several years ago.
Analysts remind consumers that this just the tip of the iceberg and there will be many shifts and changes before the healthcare goes into law in 2014 – if it does at all. There are many Republican governors who insist their states will not be participating. They say the costs are too high.
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