Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Medicaid’s glory days are over

So if you’re a Medicaid patient, brace yourself for the pain – both to your body and to your wallet. That was the message Friday from state Department of Public Welfare Secretary Estelle Richman, who painted a grim picture of Pennsylvania’s proposed 2005-06 welfare budget during a public forum at the Victoria Inns and Suites. “This is a year of shared sacrifice,” Richman told the crowd of about 150 people. “I think most of us have been calling it shared pain.”

Using a detailed slide presentation with a mind-numbing array of statistics and financial data, Richman spent two hours explaining how billions of dollars of cuts in the federal Medicaid program will force dramatic benefit cuts to patients in Pennsylvania. Some of the most significant cuts would be in the state’s medical assistance program, which uses Medicaid dollars to pay for health-care services to low-income women and children, the elderly and the disabled. At $14 billion, the medical assistance program is the single largest expenditure in the state’s general fund budget.

Nearly 100,000 more people are expected to join the Medicaid rolls next year – a time when the federal government is slashing its Medicaid budget at unprecedented levels, Richman said. “It is important to remember that we are in the middle of a health-care crisis in this country.”

Richman tried to highlight the few bright spots in this year’s budget plan, noting that no one would be cut from the state’s welfare rolls and no changes would be made in the range of health and social services available to children. Her optimism didn’t last. “On the adult side, we’ve done some pretty drastic things,” she said. “In many ways, I think these are devastating.”

The proposed budget includes new limits in benefits to adult medical assistance patients. For example, patients would be limited to six drug prescriptions per month; two inpatient hospital visits per year; one inpatient rehabilitation visit per year; and 18 doctor’s office or clinic visits per year.

More here


For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL hospitals and health insurance schemes should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the very poor and minimal regulation.

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