December 23, 2003
Most states are cutting health benefits, but not New York
Two-thirds of the states have cut Medicaid and other taxpayer-funded health-care programs to help balance their budgets, according to a study by a liberal public-policy group.
Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey and Vermont are among the 34 states that are changing eligibility standards, requiring higher premiums and otherwise reducing tax-funded support for health care, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reported.
New York, whose Medicaid and other health-care programs are by far the most costly in the nation, is among the minority of states that have not enacted cost-saving reductions, according to the center.
"Driven by flagging revenues and deep budget deficits, 34 states have made cuts over the past two years," the center reported.
A handful of states, including New York, have moved in the opposite direction by expanding programs or enrollment. New York, for instance, eliminated a requirement for face-to-face interviews when parents renew Medicaid coverage, according to the center.
Examples of cost-saving actions in other states include:
- Massachusetts eliminated health coverage for about 10,000 legal immigrants, added an asset limit for certain adult Medicaid recipients, and temporarily ended coverage for certain long-term unemployed individuals.
- New Jersey terminated coverage for recent legal immigrant adults and stopped admitting new low-income parents to New Jersey Family Care.
- Connecticut stopped admitting recent legal immigrants to Medicaid, reduced Medicaid eligibility for low-income parents and changed re-enrollment requirements for children from every 12 months to every six months.
- Minnesota cut benefits for certain low-income adults without children.
- Oregon increased monthly premiums for low-income Medicaid recipients and enacted other new restrictions.
- Tennessee enacted broad reductions in eligibility for TennCare, one of the most ambitious state-level health-care programs in the nation.
- Vermont increased monthly premiums for certain low-income adults, children and seniors.
State Comptroller Alan Hevesi recently said New York should "cut back" on Medicaid and other health-care programs given the state's fiscal difficulties: "Those (programs) that save lives have to remain and be financed, and those that help but are not dealing with lifesaving issues may have to be rolled back."
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities study is available at http://www.cbpp.org/12-22-03health-pr.htm.