Thursday, January 07, 2010

Effects of Medicaid cuts being felt in Kansas

The state of Kansas recently made cuts to their Medicaid budget and it's effects are beginning to be felt. The ten percent cuts are not only being felt by the frail and disabled but for those who care for them as well. As Kansas politicians begin to go back to work for 2010, many are debating if the cuts need to be undone.

From the Topeka Capitol Journal Online, writer Barbara Hollingsworth takes a look at the debate.

As big cuts hit Medicaid-funded programs — including agencies serving adults with developmental disabilities, physicians serving Kansans in poverty, and nursing homes caring for the frail and elderly — Kansas lawmakers on Monday will converge on the Capitol for the 2010 legislative session. Even with the drastic cuts aimed at balancing the budget, the Legislature faces a budget shortfall of between $300 and $400 million.

"There are serious questions that even if there was a legislative desire or willingness to reverse those cuts, where would they get the money?" asked Jerry Slaughter, executive director of the Kansas Medical Association. "The state can't print money like the federal government. If you don't have the money, you don't have the money."

The 10 percent cut in Medicaid reimbursement rates was part of $258.9 million in budget adjustments announced in November, although the Medicaid reduction didn't go into effect until this month. In all, the 10 percent cut is aimed at saving the state about $22 million through the end of the fiscal year. However, the loss to Medicaid providers will amount to about $66 million because the program relies heavily on federal matching funds, said Peter Hancock a spokesman for the Kansas Health Policy Authority.

It wasn't a decision that was made lightly, said state budget director Duane Goossen.

"The results from doing this are not positive things," he told the Senate Ways and Means Committee last month. "They are almost entirely negative things."

Slaughter said medical providers are having to reconsider if they will continue to accept new Medicaid patients or if they will stop serving Medicaid patients entirely. If the cuts last longer than a few months, he said he anticipates some practices may begin making decisions about cutbacks this summer. As is, he said, many physicians barely break even when serving Medicaid patients.

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