As states cut Medicaid, Connecticut takes a modest approach

Yet another topic for Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and his New Jersey counterpart, Chris Christie, to disagree about: Medicaid.

Christie has been getting national attention for his plan to cut $540 million from the state’s nearly $5 billion Medicaid program. Josh Lederman of the Associated Press reports that New Jersey is expected to seek federal approval to lower the income threshold for adults to 25 percent of the poverty level; an estimated 23,000 parents would be denied coverage next year. The cuts also include eliminating $140 million in nursing home funding.

Nearly all governors are trying to save money on Medicaid, the health care program for the poor and disabled, and Lederman describes the varied approaches states are taking. Most are reducing benefits, cutting the rates paid to health care providers and expanding the use of managed care in Medicaid, Lederman writes.

Connecticut is also trying to rein in its Medicaid spending, but with a somewhat different approach. The Malloy administration anticipates saving money by moving the state’s largest Medicaid program, HUSKY, out of managed care, and by trimming dental and vision benefits while leaving nearly all health benefits unchanged.

The budget for the next two fiscal years cuts lump-sum payments to hospitals for treating underinsured and uninsured patients, but does not call for across-the-board cuts to the rates health care providers are paid for treating individual patients. People covered through a year-old Medicaid program for low-income, childless adults that has cost significantly more than anticipated could see their benefits cut but not eliminated.

Healthy adults in HUSKY and other Medicaid programs will get fewer dental benefits, including one cleaning and exam a year, down from two. Similarly, Medicaid will only cover one pair of glasses every two years, not every year. But lawmakers softened the change late in the legislative session, allowing coverage of a second pair if a physician determines that it is necessary.