Health news roundup: Medicaid edition

Feb 1, 2013

From KBIA’s Health, Wealth and Society Desk, the first installment of a weekly rundown of health news affecting mid-Missouri.

On Medicaid expansion in Missouri

As expected, Gov. Jay Nixon partly used his State of the State address to announce his intention to push for Medicaid expansion to “300,000” more Missourians (it’s actually closer to 259,000, according to the budget summary). Loud Democratic applause and Republican nonchalance met his announcement, as reported by St Louis Public Radio’s Marshall Griffin.

In his address, Nixon highlighted the economic appeal of a Medicaid expansion, calling it a “smart business decision.” He cited an MU study that reported the expansion would create 24,000 jobs in the state. He also said it would bring in $5.7 billion to Missouri in the first three years of implementation.

In the GOP response, House Speaker Tim Jones was clear in his rejection of the expansion, naming it “a call the Republican-led legislature will not answer.” Jones brought up Missouri’s steep Medicaid cuts under Republican Gov. Matt Blunt’s administration. He said that decision “saved the state billions of dollars and staved off almost certain bankruptcy. Today we are faced with a similar decision.”

In the same time Nixon delivered his address on Monday, St Louis’ Nine Network aired “Health, Money and Politics - Missouri’s Medicaid Debate.” If you missed it, watch the 30-minute program here.

Meanwhile, the Missouri Medicaid Coalition delivered to Rep. Sue Allen (R-Town and Country) 1,500 letters from Missourians demanding the expansion. Allen chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health, Mental Health and Social Services.

And finally, UMKC law professor Ann Marie Marciarille muses on her blog about Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer's recent endorsement of Medicaid expansion in The Grand Canyon State. Back in the day, Arizona was one of the last states to finally adopt the original Medicaid. Marciarille writes,

“The Medicaid opt-in is, like original Medicaid, not so much the federal government making the states an offer that they cannot refuse as making the states an offer that they desperately want to find a reason to accept.”

And in light of the U.S. Supreme Court decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act in the NFIB vs Sebelius decision, Marciarille wonders what concessions states will bargain in exchange for participation in Medicaid expansion.

“ big will the federal government allow the states to dream? …  At least six states have expressed some interest in bartering block-grant authorization of Medicaid for their state’s participation in the Medicaid expansion.”

BONUS! Health articles you can’t miss:

“A New Era for ‘Free’ Clinic” from KCUR

Kansas City Public Radio’s health reporter Elena Gordon wrote about how one of the nation’s largest free clinics will soon have to start charging for care. As the new federal health care law begins to unfold, Kansas City Free Health Clinic will have to adjust to survive. This year, it plans to accept Medicaid and add a sliding fee scale for everyone who walks in the door. No official date has been set for the transition, but...

"… there is already some sense of loss in the community. Randy Goodman, a founding clinic member, worries about where the clinic is headed and the additional ‘red tape’ patients may now face when trying to get medical care, as the clinic puts in new protocols for billing and taking Medicaid.

‘For me, it’s the end of an era,’ he said. ‘It’s like a part of my life is gone.’"

Read the full story here.

“To Open Eyes, W-2s List Cost of Providing a Health Plan” from The New York Times

This year’s W-2 form has something new: a box that tells employees how much their bosses pay for the workers’ employer-sponsored health insurance.

“Workers often have little idea how much they and their employers are paying for coverage. In many cases, economists say, workers give up cash compensation to get and keep health benefits.

The disclosures, required by the 2010 health care law, are meant to make workers more cost-conscious. Health benefits are still tax-free. But labor unions and employer groups say it could be easier to tax them in the future, now that employers must report their value to the government.”

Read the full article here.