Clip files / Local news from the states

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

Missouri sends out Medicaid cancellation notices

JEFFERSON CITY, MO—The Department of Social Services has sent letters to about 65,000 low-income parents warning that their Medicaid coverage is about to be eliminated. Similar letters are scheduled to go out next week to other Medicaid recipients as the department begins implementing a budget that is projected to eventually eliminate coverage for 90,600 of Missouri’s 1 million Medicaid recipients.

The first batch of letters was mailed May 20. So far, about 400 people have requested hearings appealing the elimination of their coverage, Denise Cross, director of the department’s Family Support Division, said Wednesday.

The cuts in coverage to low-income parents take effect with the new state budget on July 1. The Medicaid program will continue covering only those parents whose income — after deducting child care expenses — is no more than $292 a month for a family of three. That same parent currently can qualify for Medicaid while earning up to $1,005 monthly, with the same child care adjustment.

Cuts in Medicaid coverage for the elderly and disabled take effect Aug. 28, as does the elimination of dental care and certain other benefits to most adults. Those cuts required a change in law to take effect, whereas the reduced eligibility threshold for adults did not.

The Kansas City Star, June 1

Maryland joining pool for Medicaid prescriptions

WASHINGTON, DC—Maryland and two other states were given approval by federal health officials to form a purchasing pool for prescription drugs for their Medicaid recipients, a move that could save Maryland $19 million in 2006. Maryland, Louisiana, and West Virginia become the second multistate purchasing pool approved by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

The new group will cover a total of 1.3 million low-income Americans who qualify for free or discounted health care. In most states, the majority of Medicaid beneficiaries are mothers, children, poor elderly, or disabled.

Under federal law, states already negotiate discounts with pharmaceutical companies. But many governors have complained that soaring Medicaid drug costs are devouring state budgets. The new purchasing pool, which will be run by Ohio-based Provider Synergies, should be able to negotiate deeper discounts because of its larger numbers.

Joseph E. Davis, a senior official with Maryland’s Medicaid program, said he expects the state’s discount to increase by about 20% as a result of the purchasing pool. He said the savings could help prevent future cuts in benefits or eligibility for the program.

Mr. Davis said Maryland asked Provider Synergies to explore pooling options after learning of a similar initiative approved by federal officials last year involving five states. That pool has since expanded to include more states, and he said Maryland’s pool could grow as well.

Officials estimate that Louisiana will save $27 million under the new system and that West Virginia will save $16 million.

Medicaid, a joint state-federal program for 53 million people, cost about $295 billion nationally in 2004.

Washington Post, May 23