Monday, September 26, 2011

State starts making public Medicaid cut proposals

State starts making public Medicaid cut proposals Associated Press | Posted: Monday, September 26, 2011 2:02 pm
Gov. Scott Walker's administration unveiled a website Monday that includes a handful of Medicaid cost-savings proposals intended to help it reach required cuts of about $444 million over the next two years.
But there's a long way to go.
Most of what was released was either already known about or would make little progress toward what needs to be cut.
Only three of the six areas of savings detailed Monday had not been previously announced. Those three total $6 million in savings in state money, just 3 percent of the $181.8 million that must be found under the two-year budget that took effect in July. The total amount of unspecified cuts that must be found, including federal funding and other sources, is $444 million.
The largest single item on the website was $106 million in savings achieved through freezing enrollment in the popular Family Care program, which is designed to keep people out of nursing homes, a step that the Legislature approved in June.
That is counted separately from the $181.8 million in cuts in state funding that the agency must come up with in order to balance the budget.
Other than the savings from freezing Family Care, there was $6 million in new savings and $7 million and previously announced changes including modifying payments to those providing end-stage renal disease services and changing the formula for determining pharmacy reimbursements.
More proposals will be placed on the website in the coming days, said agency spokeswoman Stephanie Smiley.
Advocates who have been calling on the agency to be more forthcoming about its plans were not impressed.
"We've been waiting for almost seven months since legislators gave the department sweeping authority to make Medicaid cuts and we still don't know what their plans are," said Jon Peacock with the Wisconsin Center on Children and Families. "I'm glad they've acknowledged that they're interested in public comments, but it's not a very meaningful gesture until we see the meat of their plans."
Robert Kraig, director of the consumer advocacy group Citizen Action of Wisconsin, called Monday's proposals "more or less window dressing for drastic cuts in Medicaid."
Efficiencies being proposed may be needed, but they will do little to get toward the cuts called for under Walker's budget, he said.
Kraig said it's always a good idea to solicit the public's input through the website, "but they haven't offered the option of having the wealthy and corporations pay their fair share and not cut Medicaid."
The cuts were ordered given growth in Medicaid and a decrease in federal funding to pay for the programs which include BadgerCare Plus, Family Care, and SeniorCare. About one out of every five Wisconsin residents, or 1.2 million people, participates in at least one of its programs.
Smiley said all of the items listed Monday can be achieved unilaterally by the department. Other items to come may require the OK of the Legislature's budget committee or the federal government.
Smith has publically discussed calling for higher copayments or premiums for beneficiaries and stopping payment to people who can afford private insurance.
Online: DHS Medicaid reform site:

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