Louisiana, Tennessee Report Health Care Budget News

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Summaries of recent budget news related to health care in Louisiana and Tennessee appear below.

* Louisiana: Further delays in efforts to address a projected $81 million deficit for the state Department of Health and Hospitals could force deeper Medicaid cuts, DHH Secretary Alan Levine said on Tuesday during a hearing of the state House Appropriations Committee, the Baton Rouge Advocate reports. This is the third time Levine has told the committee that $81 million in spending reductions are necessary; however, "Levine's plea didn't move lawmakers," who "continued to question the need for cuts now, saying there is a projected but not a real deficit," according to the Advocate. Levine said that he is mandated by state law to inform lawmakers of a projected deficit and submit a corrective action plan, adding that he took action as early as he did to avoid a reduction in Medicaid provider reimbursement rates.

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He said, "If I had waited, I would have had to recommend additional reductions," adding, "I have my staff preparing what those will be because we are contemplating [that the state Legislature] won't act until the end of November." The Louisiana Hospital Association and Louisiana Maternal and Child Health Coalition, as well as representatives of rural hospitals, hospice groups and physicians, have expressed concern about how the cuts will affect patient care (Shuler, Baton Rouge Advocate, 10/8).

* Tennessee: State officials are working to reduce the TennCare budget by $44 million as part of an effort to cut state spending by $106 million, the Tennessean reports. State Finance and Administration Commissioner Dave Goetz on Tuesday said, "This is an interim step towards being able to deal with what is a very serious fiscal crisis." According to TennCare spokesperson Marilyn Wilson, the agency was working to cut unlimited home care benefits for about 1,000 beneficiaries and reduce provider payments for durable medical equipment.

She said, "We are always looking for ways to stretch our resources," adding, "Now, we are looking to stretch them even further because when the economy takes a downturn, we get an uptick in enrollment, and we are already starting to see this." Tony Garr, executive director of the Tennessee Health Care Campaign, said the cuts will end up costing more in the long run. He said, "More low-income working folks will go without care, go to the emergency room for care and go into bankruptcy," adding, "Costs will be shifted to hospitals and passed on to the rest of us" (Mansfield, Tennessean, 10/8).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. © 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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