medicaid

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Secretary of State being sued over citizenship question

"A coalition of unions, voters, county clerks and civil rights groups is suing Secretary of State Ruth Johnson in federal court. The lawsuit challenges Johnson’s instruction that voters who show up on Election Day should be asked whether they are US citizens. But no one can legally be denied a ballot for refusing to check the box. The lawsuit was filed yesterday in US District Court in Detroit. Johnson’s office would not comment specifically on the lawsuit. But she has said the question is simply meant to remind people that only U-S citizens can vote in elections," Rick Pluta reports.

Medicaid tax falls $130-million short of projections

"The state could lose up to $260-million in federal funding for Medicaid this year. That's because of lower-than-expected revenues from Michigan's new one-percent tax on health insurance claims, which started in January. The tax will bring in $130-million less than originally projected for the current fiscal year. That means Michigan will have less money to qualify for federal matching dollars," Jake Neher reports.

CAW extends contracts with GM and Chrysler

The AP reports the Canadian Auto workers union says it has agreed to extend its current contracts with General Motors and Chrysler. Negotiations on new deals continue,

The union had set a midnight strike deadline. But President Ken Lewenza said talks would go past the deadline if there was progress. Earlier Monday the C-A-W reached a 4 -year deal with Ford that freezes pay and cuts wages for new hires. The union wants the deal to be the template for contracts with G-M and Chrysler. A CAW spokeswoman wouldn't say how long the contracts will be extended.

A new state tax to help pay for Medicaid is coming up $130 million short of projections.

The one-percent tax on health insurance claims was supposed to bring in $300 million this fiscal year. Now, budget officials say it’ll only generate about half that. Budget department spokesman Kurt Weiss said the state should be able to scrape together enough money to make up for the missing tax revenue. It is federal matching funds he is worried about.

“If you look at the way the match works, there’s the potential of losing up to $260 million in matching federal funds with this if we’re $130 million short. So, certainly that is part of the concern,” Weiss said.

Weiss said bad projections could be to blame for the gap, or health care providers simply might not be paying their share. He said his department is working with other state agencies to pin down the problem.

“It is a new tax, and it is something new to those that are paying it. So we’re really trying to reach out, do that education, and trying to make sure we’re getting the money from everybody we should be getting the money from,” he said.

Weiss said officials are looking for ways to try and make up the state’s shortfall. If shortfalls continue, he says lawmakers may have to make changes to the tax.

istockphoto.com

Michigan has to decide whether to expand its Medicaid rolls by up to a half-million people starting in 2014.  The U.S. Supreme Court's landmark decision on the Affordable Care Act struck down a portion of the law that would have required states to expand the program or risk losing all federal aid.

Michigan hospitals support Medicaid expansion.  They spend billions of dollars each year providing charity care for adults without health insurance.

Stethoscope
Adrian Clark / Flickr

Under a new law in Michigan, everyone who files a claim for a treatment or a checkup will pay a one percent tax to help fund Medicaid. The tax does not apply to co-pays or deductibles.

The new law got rid of a 6 percent use tax on Medicaid managed care organizations.

Governor Rick Snyder pushed for the one percent tax on health insurance claims to maintain medical coverage for low-income patients.

The tax was unpopular with fellow Republicans, but as the Michigan Public Radio Network Rick Pluta reported, Snyder said "he was committed to not rolling back health coverage for the poor during tough economic times."

He signed the tax into law last September.

Now the law is being challenged in court. From the Associated Press:

The Self-Insurance Institute of America Inc. filed a suit challenging the law Thursday in federal court. The suit says the Michigan assessment is pre-empted by federal law.

The suit seeks to block the assessment related to self-insured group health plans.

The Michigan assessment is scheduled to begin Jan. 1 to help fund Medicaid programs. It would be paid to the state by insurers or HMOs.

It's expected to raise about $400 million a year, helping the state draw roughly $800 million in federal funds for Medicaid.

The AP left a message seeking comment from Governor Snyder's office.

Photo courtesy of the Snyder administration

Governor Snyder has approved a one percent tax on health insurance claims to ensure that medical coverage for low-income families is not slashed by almost a billion dollars.

Everyone who files a claim for a treatment or a checkup will now pay the one percent tax. It will not apply to co-pays or deductibles.

It replaces a six percent tax on Medicaid HMOs. Michigan’s system for financing the Medicaid program for covering low-income families was on the cusp of being thrown out by federal authorities because it did not spread the burden wide enough.

Governor Snyder had a difficult time winning the votes for the health claims tax in the Republican-led Legislature. But he said he was committed to not rolling back health coverage for the poor during tough economic times. The Snyder administration has come under fire by human services advocates for rollbacks in other types of aid for low-income people, including new limits on cash assistance and food stamps.

A new tax on all health insurance claims waits for approval from lawmakers in the state House. As Michigan Public Radio’s Laura Weber reports, the tax is essential to balance the budget for the coming fiscal year.

Lawmakers must approve the health insurance claims tax in order to replace the existing tax on Medicaid HMOs. The federal government is expected to rule later this year that the existing Medicaid tax is illegal. To continue to receive funds from the federal government to help pay for Medicaid the state must approve the new tax on insurance claims.

Some lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have said they do not like the new tax proposal – Republicans saying they will not vote for a new tax, and some Democrats arguing that it would disproportionately affect some seniors who had their pensions taxed earlier this year.

The House is expected to approve the tax changes when lawmakers return in a couple weeks.

Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Michigan is expanding its involvement in Medicaid coverage.  Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Michigan joined a Pennsylvania Blue Cross to buy up a Medicaid health care plan based in Philadelphia.  Amerihealth Mercy ser

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Congress has until Tuesday to reach a deal on raising the debt ceiling to avoid default on some federal loans and other obligations.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder says a possible default has him concerned.

“One of the challenges is (the federal government) haven’t told us exactly what it’ll mean. So we’re prepared for a number of scenarios.”

This just in from Michigan Public Radio Network's Laura Weber:

The state Senate has approved a tax on health insurance claims. The measure is necessary to ensure Michigan continues to receive about $800 million from the federal government for Medicaid. The federal government is expected to rule later this year on whether the state's system for funding Medicaid is legal.

The Senate had put the issue up for a test-vote yesterday but it didn't pass. As Rick Pluta noted in a story before the second vote took place:

Governor Rick Snyder has been pressuring the Legislature to adopt a one percent tax on all health insurance claims. That would put Michigan in compliance with federal rules. Otherwise, Michigan could lose 10 percent of its funding for the entire Medicaid program. The claims tax would generate $400 million, and qualify the state for twice that much in federal funds.

Cedar Bend Drive / Flickr

The federal government is expected to rule soon that Michigan’s system for funding Medicaid is illegal. That would put more than a billion dollars in federal funds and the state’s balanced budget at risk unless the Legislature adopts another plan to come up with that money.

Governor Rick Snyder has been pressuring the Legislature to adopt a one percent tax on all health insurance claims. That would put Michigan in compliance with federal rules. Otherwise, Michigan could lose 10 percent of its funding for the entire Medicaid program.

The claims tax would generate $400 million, and qualify the state for twice that much in federal funds.

The governor says the state’s balanced budget for the coming fiscal year is at stake, as well his promise not to cut Medicaid services for the poor as Michigan is just beginning to emerge from a long recession.

“I think it’s a good thing to do to ensure we balance our budget and we have good Medicaid in our state.”

But support among lawmakers for a new tax has been elusive. The measure failed when state Senate leaders put it up for a test vote.

Mark Coggins / Flickr

A new survey found the state of Michigan is not ready to implement the health care overhaul passed by Congress. The Affordable Health Care Act is supposed to go into effect in 2014.

Marianne Udow-Phillips  is the Director of the Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation. She says more people will be eligible for Medicaid under the new health care act and this might overwhelm an already strained health care system:

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is accusing a prescription drug wholesaler of illegally inflating prices of medicine purchased by the state's Medicaid program.

Schuette says he's filed a lawsuit seeking to recover millions of dollars from McKesson Corp. The attorney general says Michigan spent about $2 billion on brand-name pharmaceuticals from McKesson from 2001 to 2009.

The lawsuit filed in Ingham County court also names other defendants, including the company that publishes drug pricing data. An email seeking comment was left Monday with San Francisco-based McKesson.

Schuette is promising to "bring the hammer down" on anyone who tries to cheat Michigan. The lawsuit isn't unique. Schuette spokeswoman Joy Yearout says other states have sued and settled.

Wayne County has launched an initiative to improve health care for low-income children. The Wayne County Child Healthcare Access Program is modeled after a similar project in Kent County. It’s based on a concept called the “medical home.”

Project Director Jametta Lilly says that concept already exists for many kids covered by private insurance. But she says care is often less consistent and coordinated for kids in the Medicaid program:

US Mission Geneva / Flickr

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will talk about health care fraud prevention at a regional summit at Wayne State University in Detroit this morning.

Law enforcement officials, consumer experts and health care providers are also expected to participate in the discussions, the Associated Press reports.

This is the fifth in a series of summits announced last June by President Obama. The AP reports:

Waste and fraud cost the federal Medicare program and Medicaid, its state counterpart, an estimated $54 billion in 2009. Holder said at a December summit in Boston that the Obama administration's crackdown on health care fraud has recovered $4 billion in Massachusetts alone over two years.

Governor Rick Snyder says his budget will not call for cuts in payments to doctors, clinics, and nursing homes that take Medicaid patients.

Snyder administration officials say it is important to maintain those payments at their current levels to make sure providers continue to see patients.

The governor’s communications director, Geralyn Lasher, says that is a less costly alternative to people showing up at emergency rooms when they get sick:

"We want people having a medical home, having a physician’s office, having that physician really guiding as far as quitting smoking, leading a healthier life, we're going to see much lower healthcare costs down the road if people take those steps right now."

Lasher says there will be other changes in Medicaid.

There are almost two million people in Michigan in the health coverage program for low-income people.

Medicaid makes up about 20% of the state budget.

MDHS

There are close to 10-million people in Michigan.  And almost three-million are now receiving some kind of state assistance.  Half of them are children.

“A lot of them are my next-door neighbors.  It’s bad in Michigan right now.  And people are in a position where they’ve never been," says Becky Clark, who works with the Michigan Department of Human Services in Lenawee County.

First page of the unsealed indictment
Department of Justice

Four Detroit-area residents have been indicted by the federal government for Medicare fraud.

The Department of Justice says Medicare fraud schemes were operated out of Patient Choice Home Healthcare and All American Home Care.

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