State Medicaid recipients may face decreased coverage

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    By Ivy Sellers

    As health officials across the nation rant and rave about recent developments in healthcare reform, the state of Utah has its own healthcare troubles looming overhead.

    “Medicaid is growing faster than ever with the number of people coming on and with inflation,” said Steve McDonald, spokesman for the Utah Department of Health. “This year we budgeted for a 6 percent growth rate, but it has been growing at more than 8 percent.”

    Currently Medicaid serves 250,000 Utahns accounting for 90 percent of the health department”s overall budget, according to the UDOH 2003 Budget Statement.

    And poor economic conditions just make things worse, McDonald said.

    “When the economy is struggling like it is, Utahns look to Medicaid during these tough times,” he said.

    And the health department may have to deal with additional changes as legislators look to make cuts during the 2003 state legislature.

    UTOH is expecting the new budget plans to be released next week, said Jana Kittering, UTOH public information officer.

    With current trends as they are, Medicaid recipients can expect the following changes, according to UDOH”s 2003 Budget Statement:

    -Co-pays will be increased for about 40,000 Utah adults, when seeing a physician or filling a prescription.

    -Pharmacies will incur a reimbursement reduction from Medicaid with the Medicaid discount rate going from 12 to 15 percent.

    -Approx. 40,000 adult Medicaid recipients will not have access to vision care, physical therapy, some case management or personal care services and nursing care.

    -There will be a reduction in hospital reimbursements for patients who significantly exceed the average length of stay for their condition.

    -The income threshold will be reduced from 100 to 75 percent of the Federal Poverty Level for 6,000 seniors and people with disabilities.

    Adults of all ages and their children will be affected by current budget cuts.

    Provo resident and BYU alumnus Emily Felix, 22, found that Medicaid is what made it possible for she and her husband to have their son Nathan without running into financial difficulties.

    Emily Felix is a stay-at-home mom. Her husband, Greg, works twenty hours a week and goes to school at BYU.

    “It saved us,” Felix said, ” I can”t imagine having spent the money to have Nathan, our baby.”

    As Nathan approaches his first birthday and the state Medicaid budget is being reduced, the Felix”s must again apply for coverage.

    “We are crossing our fingers that we are approved again at least for Nathan,” she said.

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