Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Ky. in health crisis?

Medicaid surges as budget cut

The Associated Press

FRANKFORT - Kentucky is facing a Medicaid crisis, a number of speakers said Monday.

The struggling economy has brought a record number of Kentuckians into the system of health insurance for the poor, just as huge budget shortfalls hit the state and medical costs spiked.

"We have never encountered anything like what is before us," said Dr. Donald Neel, an Owensboro pediatrician who treats 2,000 young Medicaid patients.

Neel and others were speaking at a seminar on Medicaid sponsored by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

Kentucky's Medicaid program continues to grow even as it faces a $200 million shortfall in the current fiscal year, state Health Services Secretary Marcia Morgan said to about 200 people who attended the all-day conference.

Kentucky now covers more people with Medicaid than it has children in the public school system, Morgan said.

About 646,000 children are in public schools, while Medicaid now covers 665,882 people, an increase of 12,000 people over last year, she said.

Kentucky's cuts have included denial of nursing-home care or services at home and in the community to more than 2,000 Kentuckians since April.

Several speakers noted that Kentucky has one of the highest federal match rates in the nation - the federal government provides about 70 cents for every 30 cents the state spends on Medicaid, based on a formula tied to the state's poverty rate. That means for every dollar the state cuts, it loses the federal match money.

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