Arizona to Cut Fewer Adults from Medicaid

By: - March 17, 2011 12:00 am

HEALTH BEAT ARIZONA REPREIVE: After getting federal approval to discontinue a special Medicaid plan that covers 250,000 childless adults, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer changed her mind. In an announcement this week, she said only 120,000 people would be dropped from the rolls, but future enrollment would be frozen. The plan would require most patients to pay more for their care, and doctors and hospitals would get lower fees, according to a report in The Arizona Republic.  Some of her proposals have been rejected by the federal government when they have been tried before.

MORE UNINSURED: Unemployment and the rising cost of health care caused 9 million more Americans to lose insurance coverage over the past two years, according to a new survey commissioned by The Commonwealth Fund. The report puts the total number of uninsured at 52 million. A majority of people who lost their employer-provided health insurance were unable to replace their coverage with an individual policy, the survey found. Nearly all of the newly uninsured will receive subsidized coverage in 2014 when the national health care law takes effect, the group said.

INSURANCE RULES: Under the national health care law, insurance companies must spend at least 80 percent of the money they get from their customers on direct medical care, rather than administrative costs. But if a state can show that those requirements would destabilize their insurance markets and cause people to lose coverage, the federal government can waive the rules. Maine is the first state to receive such a waiver, according to an article in The Washington Post . As a result, insurers in the state can spend as little as 65 percent of premiums on patients until the end of 2013. Kentucky, Nevada and New Hampshire also have applied for changes to the 80 percent rule.

MENTAL HEALTH CUTS: The National Alliance on Mental Illness last week reported that states have cut non-Medicaid spending for mental health care more than .8 billion in the last two years. Deeper cuts are expected for the fiscal year that starts in July. Meanwhile, mental health services for low-income children and young adults paid for by Medicaid may also be on the chopping block this year. As a percentage of previous mental health budgets, Kentucky cut the most, slashing 47 percent of funding. Alaska followed with a 35 percent cut. South Carolina, Arizona and Wisconsin cut more than 20 percent of their mental health budgets.

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Christine Vestal

Christine Vestal covers mental health and drug addiction for Stateline. Previously, she covered health care for McGraw-Hill and the Financial Times.