Friday, March 19, 2010

Second Class Citizens?

Medicaid is the federal-state health insurance plan for disabled, low-income and elderly people. The bulk of Medicaid recipients in Virginia are the elderly, blind, children, and pregnant mothers. Before this year's budget, Virginia ranked 48th in Medicaid spending.

I've previously described how reductions in state Medicaid funding play out (See Hurting the Poor & Leaving Money on the Table). Reducing provider rates results in lost jobs, increased private insurance rates, providers ceasing to take Medicaid patients, and leaves millions in federal matching money simply laying on the table.

The Budget that the General Assembly just sent to Governor McDonnell cuts Medicaid provider rates by 3% this year and 4% next year or a little over $100 million. In FY2011, medical providers - doctors, hospitals, labs - will be receiving $0.63 on the dollar for the cost of medical care provided to Medicaid recipients.

The New York Times ran a story this week with a series of narratives regarding the effects that Medicaid cuts are having on people across the United States. This video captures one woman's difficulties.

Here were some of the other narratives in the story:
  • One doctor only sees Medicaid patients if they are friends of family.
  • One man needed a root canal and a crown - New York Medicaid no longer covered it so he said he would just take Tylenol and Motrin (VA doesn't cover dental at all)
  • One woman has to drive three hours distance to find a provider willing to take her son's tonsil's out.
  • One doctor says "We get met with a blank stare of 'Where do I go from here?'"

Before the Budget passed, 58% of Virginia's healthcare providers predicted they would drop Medicaid patients if their reimbursement rates were reduced further. I guess we'll be seeing more people in the emergency rooms.

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