Health and Poverty News
"Enrollment in Medicaid is surging as a result of the Affordable Care Act, but the Obama administration and state officials have done little to ensure that new beneficiaries have access to doctors after they get their Medicaid cards, federal investigators say in a new report. The report, to be issued this week by the inspector general at the Department of Health and Human Services, says state standards for access to care vary widely and are rarely enforced. As a result, it says, Medicaid patients often find that they must wait for months or travel long distances to see a doctor."
"Six years after auditors discovered signs that some Texas orthodontists were putting unneeded braces on teeth of the state's poorest children, an army of lawyers is battling over who is liable for one of the biggest instances of Medicaid abuse in recent history. The state's estimate for how much was spent between 2007 and 2012 on Medicaid dental and orthodontic services that were medically unnecessary, improperly documented or not provided at all has climbed to $823 million."
"Medicaid-focused managed-care firm Centene is having its moment as states turn over Medicaid patients to managed-care firms. St. Louis-based Centene has been expanding in Florida and Mississippi, and may get a lot bigger in Illinois next year. It already gets a big slice of Medicaid business from Texas. And Texas will likely hand over more business to Centene next year for a new pilot program for low-income "dual eligibles" -- those on Medicare and Medicaid."
"According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 128,531 Montanans were in the SNAP program last year. A family of two must earn less than 11,293 monthly to qualify. There's no comprehensive data to show how many college students struggle with food insecurity. An increasing body of anecdotal and numeric evidence, however, suggests that it is becoming a more pressing problem. A study conducted by Oregon State University researchers in 2011 found 59 percent of OSU students interviewed went hungry at some point the year prior."
"Texas taxpayers and hospitals pay a steep price for the state's refusal to expand Medicaid, top White House officials said Wednesday, citing fresh cost projections for treating the uninsured.
Hospitals nationwide will see uncompensated care drop $5.7 billion this year, according to a Department of Health and Human Services report. Three-fourths of that savings will go to the states that expanded Medicaid."
"While the total number of SNAP enrollees decreased by 7,850 from August of last year, enrollment is trending upward. In August 2010, nearly 1.7 million Illinois residents were receiving SNAP benefits; today that number is approaching 2.03 million, an increase of almost 20 percent."
"Last winter, Virginia's Republican legislative majority blocked Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe's plan to extend Medicaid to 400,000 Virginians without medical insurance. Afterwards, McAuliffe vowed to take executive action but discovered legal restrictions limited him to adding 25,000 people to the rolls, mostly those with mental illnesses, though he included funds to encourage 160,000 more to enroll in private insurance. As a result, he was denounced for failing to live up to his vow by the same Virginia GOP whose legislators blocked Medicaid expansion in the first place."
"Eleven people who were arrested last fall following a two-year investigation into $3.6-million worth of food stamp fraud have been convicted of federal crimes and sentenced to prison terms.
The convenience stores that the convicted felons worked out of also have been disqualified from participating in the federally funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, otherwise known as SNAP. Investigators from a host of federal agencies, including the Department of Agriculture, the Office of the Inspector General and the USDA Food and Nutrition Service, said the investigation revealed that the store owners charged with crimes and their employees allowed recipients of SNAP benefits to use their Electronic Benefit Transfer cards and exchange their SNAP benefits for cash."
"An estimated 9,000 people in Randolph County do not have health insurance today because North Carolina did not expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Based on income levels reported in census data, that's how many adults may have been eligible for the program, according to figures from the Randolph County Department of Social Services (DSS). But not getting access to Medicaid is only part of their trouble."
"Ohio's prison system saved $10 million in medical expenses as a result of changes to Medicaid and is on the verge of releasing inmates with health care in hand. The savings from fiscal year 2014, which ended on June 30, are expected to climb to $18 million for the current fiscal year. Officials credit the savings to a combination of changes implemented with the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion. The expansion occurred midway through the 2014 fiscal year."
"For many Americans, this is the reality. They are part of a household that can afford good health insurance and they have come from a culture that goes to the doctor when needed and can pay for medicines when prescribed. Another sizable number are able to access basic medical services thanks to the Medicaid programs administered by the states with funding from the federal government."
"The House of Delegates on Thursday took less than an hour to debate, and dispose of, the one proposal on expanding coverage for low-income Virginians to come before it during its special session on Medicaid. It voted 64 to 33 to kill the measure, with virtually all Republicans opposing the plan and virtually all Democrats supporting it."
"The number of people without health insurance fell by 47,000 during the past year in Ohio, one of 15 states that saw a decline in its pool of uninsured from 2012 through 2013, the federal government reported yesterday."
"This much is clear: Obamacare has already put a major dent in the nation's uninsured rate. By just how much is less clear, and a couple of new government surveys out this morning could make the situation seem a bit more confusing. The U.S. Census Bureau's Current Population Survey out Tuesday morning found that the nation's uninsured rate in 2013 was 13.4 percent, or about 42 million people. The Census data, though, covers the year leading up to the Affordable Care Act's coverage expansion, so it doesn't offer much information on Obamacare's impact — though it provides a baseline of the country just before the law went into effect."
"This year, for the first time, low-income and uninsured patients whose care was previously covered under hospitals' charity-care programs were able under the ACA to qualify for Medicaid coverage or subsidized private insurance. About 600,000 Washington residents signed up for health insurance through Medicaid under expanded eligibility guidelines or through private plans."
"A new report has found that public health coverage through the Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is relied on more by rural children in Kansas than urban children. In Kansas, CHIP is known as Healthwave. It covers health coverage for children under 19 in low income families that do not qualify for Medicaid but have family incomes under 232 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. It differs from Medicaid because it is not open-ended and states are awarded yearly allotments for coverage."
"On a more tangible level, it encourages the treatment of mental health, substance abuse and dental disease as part of physical health care, not as a separate type of care. This is overdue. Not surprisingly, the first item in the Democratic gubernatorial candidate's plan is to expand Medicaid under provisions of the Affordable Care Act."
"States in the South have the least expansive Medicaid programs and the strictest eligibility requirements to qualify for assistance, which prevents people living with HIV/AIDS from getting care, according to a Southern AIDS Coalition report. In the South, Campbell said, people living with HIV have to reach disability status before they qualify for aid. This is significant, because nationally the vast majority of HIV/AIDS patients rely on Medicaid for their health care, according to research conducted by the Morehouse College of Medicine."
"Charlie Crist says he believes there is a good argument that a Florida governor could expand the state's Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act through an executive order without approval by the Legislature and that he might seek to do so if elected governor."
"September is Hunger Action Month nationwide and as a Feeding America food bank, Community Food Share is joining food banks across the country in recognizing that hunger and food insecurity in our communities is a year-round challenge. It is easy to become "hunger-blind" in our community when all around us we see affluence and healthy people. Who would ever think that there is a serious hunger problem here and that thousands of families worry daily about where their next meal will come from? Indeed, poverty, food insecurity, and hunger are invisible in a suburban community like ours."
"Since becoming law in 2010, the Affordable Care Act has been subject to a barrage of revisions and lawsuits designed to amend, improve or topple the controversial legislation -- depending on your point of view. During the past four years, more than 42 significant changes have been made to the ACA, according to the Galen Institute, a nonprofit health and tax policy research group. They include 24 changes made by President Obama, 16 passed by Congress and two by the U.S. Supreme Court. Hundreds of additional lawsuits are working their way through the courts, challenging key provisions of the law."
"The per-person premium for Arkansans enrolled in the so-called private option Medicaid program fell for the fifth month in a row as younger people continued to enroll in the program, a spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Human Services said Thursday. The state Medicaid program made monthly payments to insurance companies on Thursday totaling $80.5 million on behalf of 166,359 enrollees for coverage this month, department spokesman Amy Webb said."
"Wyoming began discussions with the federal government this summer about crafting a plan for Medicaid expansion. As voters look toward the Nov. 4 general election, candidates for governor have staked out positions on the issue. Democrat Pete Gosar and Libertarian Dee Cozzens say they would expand Medicaid. Incumbent Gov. Matt Mead, a Republican, says he is committed only to looking at options that take into consideration Wyoming's specific needs. Independent Don Wills stands opposed. Whether Wyoming joins the growing list of states that have expanded Medicaid depends in part on the outcome of this election. At last count, some 28 states have accepted expansion; 21 states are not moving forward with the program."
"This is a big deal because the Arkansas approach has been seen as the most likely model under which GOP-friendly states might eventually expand Medicaid. But the GAO report is a reminder that the economics of the Arkansas model might not work and that the private-option waiver might not be funded after three years. But the big challenges facing the Medicaid expansion don't only involve the private variation. The public version of the Medicaid expansion is about to hit its own funding wall starting in January when the Affordable Care Act's boost in funding for Medicaid primary care doctors expires."
"Twenty-nine of 50 eligible schools in Vermont have chosen to participate in this program, according to the governor's office. The program is part of the federal Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, Concannon said. The 'Community Eligibility Provision' of that law has already been introduced in several states but this year opened to all 50 states. Schools qualify if they have a high number of children whose family income is 185 percent or less of the federal poverty level (for a family of four that means $23,850) and if they have a high percentage of children whose family income has been verified through another state or federal program, such as ReachUp or food stamps, Concannon said."