September 21, 2005
News from the States
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100% Federal Participation in Store for LA, AL, and MS
Through bipartisan legislation, 100% of Medicaid costs in the storm-ravaged states of Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi are expected to be covered by the federal government through 2006. The proposals are included in the Emergency Healthcare Relief Package. For Mississippi, this would represent significant relief. The state has budgeted more than $500 million for the program through June 2006. (Clarion-Ledger, September 16, 2005)
Evacuees Pressure State Medicaid Programs
Despite recent federal efforts to provide short-term relief for states that have accepted Katrina evacuees, states are wrestling to find long-term solutions for absorbing healthcare costs for evacuees who decide to become permanent residents. The potential costs are so significant that the National Governors' Association is seeking federal relief into calendar year 2007. (The Mercury News, September 14, 2005)
Katrina Prompts Amendments to GA Plan
Citing Hurricane Katrina, Georgia has decided to delay implementation of Medicaid managed care for three months. The new start date is April 1, 2006. The delay affects 600,000 people in Atlanta and the surrounding 30 counties. (AccessNorthGA.com, September 20, 2005)
Report Confirms Spending Money in All the Wrong Places
Seeking to reverse recently enacted cuts to the Missouri Medicaid program, the Committee for a Healthy Future has initiated a drive to raise the state's tobacco taxes by eighty cents a pack. If adopted, the majority of the new revenue would go directly to healthcare through the state's Medicaid program. The current tax is seventeen cents per pack. 150,000 signatures are needed to put the issue on the ballot. (St. Louis Post Dispatch, September 15, 2005)
Alabama Medicaid Lawsuit Pits Governor Versus Legislature
Facing a lawsuit filed by advocates, Alabama Governor Mark Sanford blames the Alabama State Legislature for not addressing the challenges facing the state's Medicaid program. The lawsuit contends that the Governor does not have discretion to make changes in the state's program; that responsibility, according to the plaintiffs, rests on the shoulders of the legislature. Analysts predict that within 10 years; Medicaid will account for 29% of the state's total expenditures. (Dateline Alabama, September 17, 2005)
Medicaid Cuts Delayed in Wisconsin
Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle has delayed cuts in pharmacy reimbursement rates for the state's Medicaid program by four months. The state legislature was preparing to override the pharmacy cuts and other reductions that Doyle proposed earlier this year. Advocates fear that the cuts would decimate the provider network of pharmacies in the state, having a severe impact on persons residing in rural communities. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 19, 2005)
Kansas Exploring Ways to Slow Medicaid Growth
Reacting to a 25% increase in Medicaid spending in the past fiscal year, a Kansas legislative panel is exploring ways to slow the growth. Kansas already has some of the tightest eligibility criteria in the country, so opportunities for cuts are limited. The committee convenes again on September 26, 2005. (The Wichita Eagle, September 20, 2005)
NAMI Advocacy Tools & Resources
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, NAMI worked expediently to build a network of supports within the NAMI family so that people with mental illness can have access to services and supports during this difficult time. For a listing of supports that benefit persons affected by the storm, please visit www.nami.org/hurricanekatrina. The resource guide includes information that will be helpful to all state NAMI leaders.
Washington Quick Glance
Bush Administration and Congress Pursue Medicaid Expansions for States Hit by Katrina and States Serving Evacuees
As part of an effort to get immediate assistance to states responding to Hurricane Katrina, the Bush Administration has set up a new waiver program that will expand Medicaid eligibility for states that are currently housing evacuees. The waiver program allows states to extend simplified and expedited presumptive eligibility to evacuees with 100% federal matching funds. This will ensure that many evacuees who were not eligible for Medicaid prior to Katrina will be able to get temporary eligibility, regardless of where they are now living.
On September 16, Texas became the first state to have a waiver approved (Texas has the largest share of Katrina evacuees), and more waivers are expected later this week. States will be allowed to offer Medicaid coverage for up to 5 months (individuals can apply through January 31, 2005). For people with disabilities, eligibility for the waiver is extended up to 300% of the federal SSI (supplemental security income) level. The Texas waiver adds a range of mental health services not currently covered under Texas Medicaid, including inpatient psychiatric treatment for non-elderly adults, licensed counseling, and substance abuse. The federal waiver also establishes an uncompensated care pool (financed entirely with federal funds) to pay medically necessary services provided to evacuees who are uninsured and ineligible for Medicaid.
In addition to the Bush Administration's emergency waiver program, efforts in Congress are building to extend Medicaid coverage to individuals displaced by the hurricane. A bipartisan coalition of Senators has introduced S 1716, legislation authorizing both optional coverage for states taking evacuees and 100% matching funds for Louisiana, Mississippi and impacted counties in Alabama. NAMI is urging advocates to support the S 1716. More information is available on the NAMI Web site.
NAMI Statehouse Spotlight is an electronic newsletter provided free of charge as a public service. With more than 1,000 state and local affiliates, NAMI is the nation's largest grassroots organization dedicated to improving the lives of people with severe mental illnesses. Contributions to support our work can be made online at www.nami.org/donate.
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