Clip files / Local news from the states

This column features selected short items about state health care policy.

Liberal phrasemaking, conservative hijacking

NEW YORK CITY—New York Times writer Bob Herbert made the following comments in his "In America" column recntly: "George W. Bush and the Republicans have spent much of the presidential campaign promising to look out for the nation’s children. They have gone so far as to hijack the phrase leave no child behind’ from the very liberal Children’s Defense Fund.

"Trust me, it was odd watching Dick Cheney, who as a congressman voted against funding for Head Start, against subsidizing school lunches for poor children, and against federal aid for college students, delivering the following lines to the very conservative delegates at the Republican convention in Philadelphia:

When George W. Bush is president and I am vice president, tests will be taken, results will be measured, schools will answer to parents, and no child will be left behind.’

"It is understandable that some voters might be skeptical. For years, the GOP has fended off new programs designed to help children, while fighting hard to slash support for those that already exist. It was Ronald Reagan’s administration, during a celebrated assault on school lunches, that tried to have ketchup declared a vegetable.

"Now, with George W. Bush campaigning as a champion for children, we learn that the state of Texas has not bothered to comply with a 1996 consent decree requiring it to provide appropriate health care service to more than 1.5 million children who are eligible for Medicaid.

"The Children’s Defense Fund has been a terrific group for many years. Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney and the Republicans have stolen its motto. Now might be a good time to borrow its commitment."

The New York Times, Aug. 31

Bazelon takes another poke at Salud!

WASHINGTON, DC—For the third time in the renewal process of Medicaid managed care in New Mexico, the federal Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) is gathering first-hand information about reported deficiencies in mental health services provided by Salud!, the state’s Medicaid managed care plan.

From Sept. 5-7, HCFA teams met in Santa Fe, Albuquerque and Las Cruces with state legislators and mental health providers and consumers who have complained about lack of access to needed services.

On Sept. 5, in Washington, DC, the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law issued its fourth analysis of data showing that few Salud! enrollees with mental illnesses are receiving any mental health services at all.

In particular, the legal center found, adults and children with the most serious disorders are not receiving the types of intensive community services they need. The Bazelon Center reviewed data on the use of services by all Salud! enrollees in October-December 1999, collected by the New Mexico Medical Assistance Division.

HCFA requires a state to collect such "encounter data" for all Medicaid managed care consumers when it waives Medicaid rules for the state to provide services through managed care. The division is operating Salud! under such a waiver, contracting with three managed care health plans: Cimarron, Lovelace, and Presbyterian.

—Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law news release, Sept. 5

Siphoning money from Medicaid

NEW YORK CITY—New York and 16 other states are manipulating Medicaid reimbursement laws to pull billions more dollars out of Washington than Congress intends. Some states use the largesse to treat the poor. Others use the windfall to pay ordinary bills. Either way the practice should be curtailed before it undermines political support for the always-embattled Medicaid program.

The New York Times, editorial, Sept. 11