[Hpn] Reuters -- Budget Crisis Forces Deep Health Cuts for Poor
Mon, 30 Dec 2002 12:12:37 -0800
Budget Crisis Forces Deep Health Cuts for Poor
By Todd Zwillich
WASHINGTON (Reuters Health) Dec 23 - Ballooning state budget deficits are
threatening health program cuts that may force a million or more poor
Americans to lose their medical coverage in 2004, according to estimates
The estimates, based on proposed budget plans and from ongoing cuts in 11
states, show that Medicaid and State Children's Health Insurance (SCHIP)
plans are among the first programs facing cuts.
"This initial tally is around a million people who will lost their Medicaid
coverage," said Leighton Ku, a health researcher with the Center on Budget
and Policy Priorities.
Ku said that he and other analysts expect that the cuts could be even deeper
as governors submit their budgets in the springtime.
Among the cuts already proposed is a plan proposed by California Governor
Gray Davis (D) to eliminate health coverage for 300,000 low-income parents
who gained insurance coverage through their children's enrollment in SCHIP.
Most of the cuts would come for parents living at 61% to 100% of the federal
poverty level, about or $9,160 to $15,000 for a family of three.
Nearly 40,000 low-income persons face the loss of their state-sponsored
health coverage in a Missouri plan to tighten eligibility for the state's
"Almost all of them are working families," Ku said.
The cuts come as states face at least $50 billion in deficits in fiscal
2004, in addition to about $18 billion in deficits this fiscal year,
according to a second report issued by the center. Nearly all states have
balanced budget laws that force them to either raise taxes and other
revenues or cut state spending when deficits arise.
Lawmakers in Washington considered increasing federal Medicaid payments to
states or reserving unused money for states in financial crises but
ultimately failed to agree on any proposals.
An economic proposal issued Friday by Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), the senior
Democrat on the Finance Committee, called for Congress to spend $75 billion
in fiscal relief for the states, including an increase in federal Medicaid
Analysts said that they did not expect lawmakers to agree to such a high
figure when they return to Washington in January.
"That is likely to be the high-water mark," said Robert Greenstein, the
center's executive director.
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