Clip files / Local news from the states

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

Medicaid exec: Funds will dry up this summer

MONTGOMERY, AL—The Alabama Medicaid Agency will run out of money sometime around midsummer unless state lawmakers approve extra funding, the agency’s commissioner has said.

A bill sponsored by Rep. John Knight, D-Montgomery, and backed by Gov. Bob Riley would steer a supplemental $39.8 million to Medicaid this year.

Alabama Medicaid Commissioner Carol Herrmann said she expects the funding to be approved and that it would have dire consequences if the emergency relief were lost in the legislative shuffle.

Also, Alabama’s Medicaid program will not meet federal standards for access to care unless agency funding is increased for the next fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1, Herrmann predicted. "We cannot make any more cuts," Ms. Herrmann pointed out.

Alabama’s Medicaid program expects to have a $60 million shortfall in its budget for this fiscal year and to fall $182 million short in fiscal 2005 if it does not get more money.

The program is budgeted to receive $230 million from the state General Fund this year, although it also has money coming in from other sources. Because of cash-flow problems, Medicaid regularly has delayed payments to care providers. Without the supplemental appropriation, the agency wouldn’t have funds to pay providers during the final few months of the fiscal year, she said. "We would have a pretty dire situation," she said.

Birmingham News, March 23

KidCare insurance will be cut back

TALLAHASSEE, FL—Thousands of children statewide can expect to get kicked out of the Florida KidCare program starting later this year because of a major revamp of the subsidized health insurance plan that legislators approved.

With election-year politics surrounding the debate, the Republican-led Florida House sent Senate Bill 2000 — the most comprehensive measure yet to pass the 2004 Legislature — to the governor’s desk on an 80-37 party-line vote.

House Republicans said the future program cutbacks were necessary to keep the program fiscally sound for years to come.

Republican sponsors emphasized the most appealing aspects of their KidCare legislation — most notably that the bill temporarily adds more children to the program.

It does so by authorizing $25 million, most of it one-time federal money, to take 90,000 children off a waiting list for the health coverage.

But the Democratic legislators, who have been pushing for months to get legislative approval to allow more children into the program, were not satisfied.

They argued that the legislation still won’t help 20,000 additional children on a waiting list to be served, and the overall changes to the bill will trim the rolls for the health program by placing severe new restrictions on future enrollment and eligibility.

Tallahassee Sun-Sentinel, March 16