States and Medicaid Expansion – Montana, Illinois

  • News analysis: Medicaid expansion answers hard to come by, By Mike Dennison, September 9, 2012, Helena Independent Record: “When Gov. Brian Schweitzer submits his farewell state budget in November, he’ll spell out how Montana should expand Medicaid in 2014 to provide health coverage for another 50,000 of our lower-income fellow citizens – or maybe not. Schweitzer, whose final term in office ends Dec. 31, isn’t saying whether he wants to expand Medicaid in Montana, as allowed and bankrolled by the federal health-reform law. In a recent interview, the Democratic governor said his administration wants to know the ground rules for the expansion, such as whether Montana can make some adjustments and still get federal financing…”
  • Medicaid moratorium could hamper Illinois action on federal health law, By Doug Finke and Chris Wetterich, September 8, 2012, State Journal-Register: “Medicaid changes approved by Illinois lawmakers to rein in the skyrocketing cost of the program may have another effect. They could make it more difficult for the state to implement the federal Affordable Care Act. Along with sweeping changes to eligibility standards, rate reductions, program elimination and other cost-containment measures, lawmakers approved a four-year moratorium on expansion of Illinois’ Medicaid program. Coupled with the U.S. Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act, some lawmakers believe the General Assembly will have to suspend or repeal the moratorium if there is going to be an expansion of Medicaid rolls that results from the ACA…”

States and Medicaid Expansion

  • Montana could add 50K to Medicaid if program is expanded, By Mike Dennison, August 21, 2012, The Missoulian: “If Montana expands Medicaid as allowed under federal health care reform, about 50,000 low-income Montanans will be added to the program starting in 2014 – and the cost and benefits are difficult to predict, experts told a legislative panel Monday. The cost to the state could range anywhere from $30 million to $118 million a year by 2020, the experts said. But they also said covering 50,000 people who currently don’t have health insurance will have positive impacts for the state, such as reducing the amount of ‘uncompensated care’ now paid for by hospitals, and bringing hundreds of millions of federal dollars into the state…”
  • State officials seek to greatly expand Medicaid, By Marissa Harshman, August 19, 2012, The Columbian: “The outlook for Washington’s medically uninsured population may be a bit rosier by 2014, particularly for the more than 300,000 low-income people who may find themselves eligible for the state’s Medicaid rolls. But the desired expansion comes with a hefty price tag for the federal government, potential risk for the state and new concern for health care providers already stretched to care for current Medicaid patients. The Medicaid program currently serves about 1.2 million people in Washington. In the last several years, as the state’s purse strings tightened, the medical program for low-income residents has faced cuts to provider reimbursement rates and services. Still, the state is moving forward with its implementation of federal health care reform and expansion of Medicaid enrollment, adding about 330,000 more Washingtonians to the program, with the expectation that the federal government will pay the lion’s share of the cost to cover new enrollees…”
  • GOP govs: Not enough Medicaid ‘flexibility’, By J.K. Wall, August 20, 2012, Indianapolis Business Journal: “The Obama administration is giving states like Indiana a little flexibility in how to expand their Medicaid programs-but nothing like what state officials hoped for after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the health reform law in late June. The law calls for all states to expand eligibility for their Medicaid programs to include adults earnings as much as 138 percent of the federal poverty limit. Indiana’s current limit for adults is just 24 percent of the federal poverty limit. But the Supreme Court, in its June 28 ruling upholding the law, said the states can opt out of the expansion without losing all federal funding for their Medicaid programs…”

2012 Kids Count Report – Western States

  • Oregon tumbles in report on kids, By Saerom Yoo, July 24, 2012, Statesman Journal: “An annual report that ranks the 50 states on the well-being of their children says that Oregon’s place has taken a dive.  The 23rd Kids Count Data Book, released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, ranks Oregon 33rd — a drop of 15 spots since last year.  The foundation measures child well-being using statistics about economic well-being, education, health, and family and community.  In previous reports, Oregon consistently ranked in the top 20 because of its positive performance on child health care. This year, the foundation focused more on economic and community characteristics, which are the indicators weighing on the state’s children, according to the report…”
  • Nevada takes hit on kids’ well-being, By Siobhan McAndrew, July 25, 2012, Reno Gazette-Journal: “Compared to the rest of the country, Nevada’s kids are more likely to live in poverty, come from a single-parent home and less likely to attend preschool or graduate high school on time.  Trailing just behind New Mexico and Mississippi, a report ranked Nevada 48th in child welfare indicators.  The low rankings in education, health and economic situations affect a child’s ability to succeed and thrive, according to the 2012 Kids Count Data Book released Wednesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The nonprofit has been collecting data from states since 1990 in an effort to create new initiatives and lobby lawmakers…”
  • Calif. sinks to 41st on kids’ well-being, By Neal J. Riley, July 25, 2012, San Francisco Chronicle: “Ranked highly among the states on child welfare issues last year, California is now one of the worst, according to a new report.  The Golden State tumbled from last year’s position of 16th to 41st on children’s overall well-being, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a national philanthropy group for children, reported in its annual rankings Wednesday…”
  • Kids Count report: Number of Utah kids in poverty up 45%, By Cathy Mckitrick, July 24, 2012, Salt Lake Tribune: “Utah is among 43 states where the number of children living in poverty has increased, according to the 2012 KIDS COUNT Data Book released Wednesday.  From 2005 to 2010, the number of Utah children living below the federal poverty threshold — $23,050 in gross annual income for a family of four— rose from 11 percent to 16 percent, roughly a 45 percent increase.  However, the Annie E. Casey Foundation study also ranks Utah 11th in the nation in terms of overall child well-being…”
  • Wyoming ranks in top half of states for child well-being, By Joshua Wolfson, July 25, 2012, Casper Star-Tribune: “Wyoming’s child and teen death rate inched up during the second half of the past decade, even as the national rate declined 15 percent, according to figures released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.  The rate of child and teenage deaths in Wyoming rose from 45 to 47, per 100,000, during the years 2005 to 2009. The national average decreased from 32 to 27 deaths over that same period.  The disturbing trend contributed to Wyoming’s poor health score in the foundation’s annual Kids Count report, which measures child well-being. The state ranked 47th in the nation in the health category…”
  • Montana behind neighbors in children’s well-being report, By Charles S. Johnson, July 25, 2012, The Missoulian: “Montana ranked 28th best nationally in some key indicators of children’s well-being, but once again trailed its four neighboring states, the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2012 Kids Count Data Book showed Tuesday.  The private foundation ranked states on their overall child well-being using what it calls four ‘domains,’ or categories: economic well-being, education, health, and family and community. Within each category, there are four sets of measurements…”
  • National report gives Arizona poor marks in child well-being, By Michelle Reese, July 26, 2012, East Valley Tribune: “Arizona is not doing well by its children, according to an annual report released this week by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.  In fact, the 2012 KIDS COUNT Data Book shows only four states in the country are doing worse in terms of the overall well-being of children. Arizona dropped nine rankings from last year’s report.  Using economic, education, health, and family and community facts related to children in Arizona from 2005 through 2011, the foundation determined Arizona sorely needs to make improvements to a number of areas, including children’s access to health care and early childhood programs…”

Women, Infants, and Children Program

  • Why are fewer moms applying for safety net program?, By Pamela M. Prah, April 30, 2012, Stateline: “More Americans are collecting food stamps than ever before, but fewer needy mothers are using another federal government program that offers free baby formula and food for young children. There isn’t one answer to explain the recent decline in the number of women and young children in the program, commonly known as WIC, which the government officially calls the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children. It makes sense that more Americans are getting food stamps since that program, known formally as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, is open to people of all ages who need help recovering from the recession. WIC specifically serves pregnant, breastfeeding, and postpartum women, infants and children up to age 5, a much narrower demographic. Still, it’s puzzling that WIC would be shrinking in these hard times, rather than getting bigger…”
  • Missoula health department says state’s WIC use lowest in U.S., By Keila Szpaller, April 28, 2012, The Missoulian: “The state of Montana has the lowest rate in the country – 30 percent – of serving children who qualify for federal help getting good nutrition, according to the Missoula City-County Health Department. ‘We suspect from our focus groups and from our experience with the program that the state has rules that are not federally required, and some of those rules are very difficult for the client at the checkstand, if not humiliating,’ said Ellen Leahy, director of the local health department. Leahy last week shared the news about the federal WIC program – Women, Infants and Children – with a committee of the Missoula City Council, and she said the local agency is ‘advocating and agitating’ to change burdensome state requirements…”
  • Muskegon County WIC food assistance enrollment, use down, By Megan Hart, April 16, 2012, Muskegon Chronicle: “Fewer Muskegon County families are using nutritional assistance for women and young children, officials say – a trend they hope to reverse. Public Health Muskegon County maternal child services supervisor Gwen Williams said about 7,620 Muskegon County people were enrolled in the Special Supplement Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (better known as WIC) as of February. That’s down from a high of 7,821 people in 2011, she said, and many more families are eligible…”

2011 Kids Count Data Book – Western States

State Medicaid Programs – Mississippi, Montana

  • Health care squeeze forcing some Mississippi kids out, By Molly Parker, November 30, 2010, Jackson Clarion-Ledger: “Parents across Mississippi say they are frustrated with state Medicaid officials as programs are downsized and benefits canceled. ‘People are really being turned down right and left right now and it’s frightening,’ said Eric Weber, an assistant professor in the Public Policy Leadership Department at the University of Mississippi and the parent of a disabled child. ‘People who were getting covered last year are not getting covered this year.’ Gov. Haley Barbour’s tough financial stand toward Medicaid speaks volumes about the legacy he may leave when his term expires in January 2012…”
  • Medicaid spending ups state budget, By Mike Dennison, November 26, 2010, Billings Gazette: “Year after year, the big kahuna in state spending is human services – and Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s proposed budget makes no exception here, with substantial increases in Medicaid, the state-federal program that pays medical bills for the poor. The governor also proposes full extension of funding for the Healthy Montana Kids program, with its goal of expanding government-funded health insurance to another 15,000 to 20,000 children in low- and middle-income families. These and many other programs all add up to a proposed $3.7 billion in spending (including federal funds) on public health and human-service programs for the next two years, or more than 40 percent of the entire state-authorized budget…”

State Prescription Drug Plan – Montana

Montana: Medicaid-for-all drug plan different from other states’ illegal tries, By Mike Dennison, November 21, 2010, The Missoulian: “At least two other states have tried discounted prescription-drug programs similar to a proposal Gov. Brian Schweitzer unveiled last week as a potential money-saver for all Montana residents – and in both cases, a federal court declared them illegal. Schweitzer has asked federal health officials to allow all Montanans to qualify for Medicaid for the purpose of paying lower drug prices, forcing the drug industry to pay price rebates on those drugs. Yet in 2001 and 2002, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., struck down programs in Vermont and Maine that extended Medicaid drug-price rebates to people not otherwise covered by Medicaid. The pharmaceutical industry had sued to stop the programs as an improper use of the rebates…”

State Medicaid Programs – Montana, Florida

  • Legislators skeptical about plan to privatize Medicaid, By Matt Gouras (AP), October 15, 2010, Helena Independent Record: “Montana lawmakers and others said Thursday they are skeptical about Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s plan to privatize Medicaid services, especially those who remember a disaster in the mid-1990s to contract out some of those services. Only recently have health care providers and interested legislators learned about plans in the Schweitzer administration to consider a test letting a private, managed-care firm run Medicaid in part of the state, although many of the details have not been disclosed. ‘On first blush it sounds too good to be true. They don’t decrease care, they don’t decrease provider rates and plus they take their profit on top?’ said Rep. Mary Caferro, a Helena Democrat. ‘I just think if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.’ The Lee Newspapers State Bureau reported the state is considering asking companies to bid on a contract to manage Medicaid, the state’s $900 million health care program for the poor, in a five-county area that includes Helena and Great Falls…”
  • Increasing Medicaid rolls and higher costs a challenge for next governor, By Bill Rufty, October 14, 2010, Lakeland Ledger: “Shannon Baxley and Brian Alvear and their two children receive health care through Medicaid. One daughter is disabled. Brian works two jobs, and Shannon is a full-time mom trying to get additional education. ‘It definitely helps,’ Baxley said. ‘But it does change, and you either are on full Medicaid like the children or you are on ‘share of cost’ depending on your income from month-to-month, based on a formula. I could see someone older who may have Medicaid in addition to their Medicare not going to the doctor, just for the hassle of figuring it out.’ With Democrat Alex Sink and Republican Rick Scott hammering away on each other in the race to become Florida’s governor, one of them will soon be in a position to affect people like Baxley and her family. Whichever one gets the most votes in the Nov. 2 election will have to work with members of the state legislative leadership who have said the state’s share of Medicaid costs must be reduced…”
  • Central Florida legislator looks to other states for Medicaid solutions, By Bill Rufty, October 15, 2010, Lakeland Ledger: “If anyone has seen all sides of the Medicaid issue, it has to be Ed Homan. He is a state legislator, an orthopedic surgeon whose medical group treats Medicaid patients, and he is a professor at the University of South Florida School of Medicine. The Temple Terrace Republican has tried to get a bill passed that would assure care for poor patients, would pay doctors compensation and would save money through a program that has been successful in North Carolina. But he said he keeps getting beaten back by corporate medical lobbyists. Homan’s latest attempt, and his last because he is leaving the Florida House after reaching term limits, was his introduction of a bill in the 2010 Florida Legislature that would have combined the best of the North Carolina plan and a similar one in Oklahoma…”

Medicaid Enrollment – Montana

Medicaid coverage at its highest level ever in Montana, October 13, 2010, Billings Gazette: “Medicaid, the state-federal program that pay medical bills for the poor and disabled, covers about 99,600 people in Montana – its highest level ever. The economic recession has swelled the ranks of the program, which is one of the largest single expenditures in the state budget. For the 2010-11 biennium, the Legislature budgeted $1.75 billion for Medicaid, or nearly $900 million a year. The state covers anywhere from one-fourth to one-third of the cost. Most Medicaid spending is on aged people, including those in nursing homes, disabled people, pregnant women, children and families with dependent children. They qualify if their income is under certain levels…”

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Enrollment – Montana

Requests for food aid up 50% in past 2 years, By Susan Olp, September 10, 2010, Billings Gazette: “As if additional proof was needed of the sagging economy’s effect, more people than ever are seeking help to supplement their food budget. That’s true for the nation as a whole, as well as in the state and locally. The number of people enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — formerly the Food Stamp program — has steadily increased in the past two years. ‘There is more usage of this subsidy program than there has been in history,’ said Linda Snedigar, administrator for the Human and Community Services Division of the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services. She recently attended a conference titled ‘SNAP Makes History,’ underlining that fact. As unemployment has steadily increased, so has the number of people enrolling in the federally funded SNAP program, Snedigar said. ‘Over the last two years we’ve seen almost a 50 percent increase in the number of people receiving SNAP in Montana,’ she said. That’s about one person for every eight in the state, Snedigar said. In August 2006, the number of recipients in Montana receiving benefits through SNAP totaled 81,717. That number dipped to 81,240 in 2008 and then climbed to 118,958 in 2010…”

Food Stamp Program Enrollment – Montana

Food stamp stampede, By Alana Listoe, August 22, 2010, Helena Independent Record: “Halfway through the month, Scott Crooks had $8.94 left in food stamps, and after a trip to the grocery store on Thursday to buy some ground beef, just $3.33 remained. It wasn’t a difficult decision to buy beef. The 24-year-old AmeriCorps Vista had ingredients at home to make tacos and spaghetti, thus making it possible to split the meat and use it for both meals, stretching his food a few more days. Crooks isn’t alone. More Montana citizens receive federal assistance to pay for their groceries than ever before. Some use the help to feed their children. Many are on a fixed income due to a disability. Others, like Crooks, work but don’t earn enough to buy basic necessities, so they use food stamps to bridge the gap. The number of recipients has climbed steadily every month for the past two years, with 12 percent of the state population receiving benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. That’s about 3 percent higher than it was two years ago at this same time…”

State Children’s Health Insurance Program – Montana

Kids’ health care sign-ups move slowly, By Mike Dennison, July 12, 2010, Billings Gazette: “Enrollment for Montana’s expanded children’s health insurance plan continues to inch upward but is still far short of the 30,000 additional kids that supporters hoped for by year’s end, the latest numbers show. Healthy Montana Kids, created by a voter-passed initiative in 2008, has added about 6,600 children to government-funded health insurance plans during the first seven months of its existence. The program offers free health insurance for children in families earning up to 250 percent of the federal poverty level, or $45,800 for a family of three. Anna Whiting Sorrell, the state’s top public health official, said late last week that she thinks the goal of adding 30,000 kids is still reachable and that her agency is mounting ‘some major additional outreach’ to sign up more children…”

Children’s Health Insurance Coverage – Montana

State faces backlog of applications for Montana Healthy Kids, By Mike Dennison, December 10, 2009, The Missoulian: “Two months into the state’s new, expanded children’s health insurance program, only about 740 kids have been added, as health officials try to erase a backlog in processing applications. State officials also have held off on a planned statewide advertising blitz for the new program, known as Healthy Montana Kids, while they work through delays in the approval process. ‘We want to make sure our eligibility (processing) is working as it should,’ said Anna Whiting Sorrell, director of the state Department of Public Health and Human Services. ‘We don’t want to frustrate people.’ Yet Whiting Sorrell said the state is still encouraging families to apply for the programs. ‘Our message to all Montana families who would like health coverage for their children is, apply now,’ she said. ‘Even though we’re experiencing a heavy workload, people should still apply.’ Healthy Montana Kids, approved by voter initiative in 2008, expands two government health insurance programs – Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Plan – with the goal of covering an additional 29,000 children in low- and moderate-income families in Montana…”