Healthcare Cuts

Friday, April 3, 2009 - 6:56pm

The Medicare and Medicaid programs are facing millions of dollars of cuts in federal funding. The deep federal cuts could soon limit medical care for some. Our Lauren Unger found out about the cuts.

26% of people in Louisiana use Medicaid. For them, it could mean fewer options in medical care. But those aren’t the only people who stand to lose in the face of these cuts. Regular checkups are essential in raising healthy kids, but some in Louisiana are missing out when it comes to healthcare. Alan Levine, Secretary of DHH, says, “Even though you have an insurance card, that doesn’t mean they have access.”

A lack of providers who accept Medicaid leaves kids and adults without options for care. “Only 60% of our children on Medicaid had well child checkups. Only 40% of our women in Medicaid had access to breast screenings last year.” And it’s a problem that’s only going to get worse. Starting in October, the state will be getting millions les sn federal reimbursement for Medicaid costs. “The total that we’re facing is anywhere from $800 million to $1.1 billion in federal reductions.”

There’s stimulus money, but that’s set to run out by 2010, meaning Louisiana will have to make deep Medicaid cuts or come up with the money to fund the program. That could raise taxes or take money from the general fund. “It comes from somewhere else and typically there are only a few places it can come from—higher education, K through 12, public safety, transportation, the environment, these are important programs as well.”

A major cash infusion needed for a system at a time when most areas are already facing cuts. But the stimulus package does buy some time when it comes to the funding shortfall. Officials are hoping to use that time to petition the federal government and look for solutions here locally as well.