Archive for Friday, January 6, 2006

Health care costs worry leaders

January 6, 2006


— In recent months, lawmakers have focused most of their attention on school funding, but it is increasing health care costs that have many state leaders even more worried.

"Medicaid, long-term, is still the most critical issue facing the state," Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, said.

Medicaid is a federal- and state-funded program that provides health care to low-income Kansans and those with disabilities.

It covers one in 10 Kansans, or about 260,000 people. That includes one in five children, six in 10 people in nursing homes and delivery costs of one in three births.

Medicaid costs about $2.2 billion annually, making it the second-largest state budget expense next to public schools. The program's medical expenses have increased 200 percent in the past 10 years.

Morris ticks off the Medicaid increases: $155 million last session, and $400 million over the two sessions previous to that.

Reforms en route

A Medicaid reform committee studied the issue for several months and produced a long list of recommendations aimed at reducing fraud, increasing the availability of long-term care insurance and giving people more information about the array of services available in communities.

Despite earlier predictions that increased Medicaid expenses would strain the state budget, the committee didn't take on the politically charged notion of trying to contain costs by making it more difficult to qualify for services.

"If you look at the long-term growth in Medicaid, it's pretty scary," House Speaker Doug Mays, R-Topeka, said. "You can't ratchet down Medicaid much because you have an aging population. Eventually, we'll be paying as much for Medicaid as we are for education."

Education funding currently is about half the state budget, while Medicaid accounts for about 20 percent.

Congressional cuts

But Congress may lead the way in cutting Medicaid. Congress is poised to act on a federal budget that would cut the projected increase in federal Medicaid funding by $4.7 billion over five years.

U.S. Sens. Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts, both Kansas Republicans, voted for the measure.

"These are very, very modest moves, but necessary moves for us to get to a balanced budget," Brownback said.

But some governors, including Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, said the reduction undermined the government's commitment to health care.

"It seems as though every time Kansas takes a step forward, Washington goes out of its way to take two steps back," Sebelius, a Democrat, said.

More community services

Meanwhile, social service advocates hope to continue the increase in home- and community-based services.

"We think the 2006 legislative session will be critical in setting future directions," said Shannon Jones, a spokeswoman for the Big Tent Coalition, a group that lobbies for increased social service funding and program choices.

Over the past 20 years, Kansas has de-emphasized the use of state hospitals and institutions for people with physical and mental disabilities, and increased funding for services to people in their homes and communities.

At the state level, the Big Tent Coalition has asked for $10.3 million in additional funding to help 1,200 Kansans with developmental disabilities who are on a waiting list for home- and community-based care. Currently, about 6,000 Kansans with developmental disabilities receive this assistance.

The coalition also has recommended changes in state law to ensure more people receive help in community-based programs instead of going to nursing homes.


Ragingbear 12 years, 5 months ago

I know of somebody who is disabled, and as such recieves Medicaid. She recently got hit by a reform that removed an array of medications off the approved drug list. While her doctor was trying to find not one, but 4 new medications that were approved for her, she ended up having complications from the very problems that the medications were originally controlling. This ended up causing her to stay 41 days in the hospital. But the hospital stay is covered.

Another example is with me and my migraine medication. For those who do not know the difference between a headache, a cluster headache, and a migraine, let me explain. A headache simply means that your head hurts. A cluster headache feels like an alien has drilled into your skull and planted a growing alien embryo into your brain. A migraine feels like the alien has reached birth maturity and is now eating it's way out through your left eyeball. And that is no exxageration. Anyways, the medication for it is a bit pricey. About $40 for two doses, and you end up taking one or both during each migraine episode. However, Medi-Kan( the State Medicaid for those awaiting final disability approval) will not cover it. However, they will cover the Emergency Room visit where you are not only given the same medicine you should have had, but a mixture of other medicines (as it has advanced, rather than being treated early) including a narcotic or two. This bill ranges from $800 to $1200 per migrain, and a migrain sufferer can experience one from 1-10 times a month.

Stepping over dollars to save pennies. Cut out the stupid stuff, and provide better health benefits, at lower cost to all.

KsTwister 12 years, 5 months ago

Agree with you. In the late 60's government said we are going to provide low income and pregnant girls with assistance. There will still be plenty of money there for you in your old age. Now they cannot even help with the meds and Medicare D is a joke for all the Seniors who cannot come up with$3,287.50 before Medicare pays for 95% of it. And that is each year too. But taxpayers sure shell out the dough for plane fuel to go back and forth to Crawford Texas-To Think.

neopolss 12 years, 5 months ago

A lot of the problem is that our lawmakers and politicians make it a point to drill into our heads all of the people who defraud and waste money. We're taught to picture lazy welfare parents with 10 kids, and it works. People forget about the thousands of good average Americans who really on coverage when they join in with the lynch mob to cut funding. It sticks in their heads, and politicians collect their lobby pay for a job well done.

The propaganda machine is at full swing, and the system truly is broke. This government does not have the American citizen as the #1 focus. It's main priority is lobbyist dollars and steak dinners. Excite poll yesterday showed an overwhelming 78% of Americans believe that corruption is a widespread problem. Which begs the question, why are we still voting in this system?

KsTwister 12 years, 5 months ago

They bash Canadian drugs, my mother has one from Canada. Guess where it is made? Overland Park KS.But remember,Canada drugs are bad.More bull

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