Medicaid Cuts Would Reduce Access to Care for Sick Children

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For the House Appropriations Committee, each day brings a new topic area and yet more grim budget news.

After learning yesterday what budget cuts would do to the elderly and disabled populations, the Appropriations Committee moved on this morning to another vulnerable population at risk this session—sick children.

The subcommittee dealing with health and human services continued laying out budget recommendations today. Officials from the Health and Human Services Commission—which administers Medicaid and CHIP—were also in the hot seat to discuss proposed 10 percent Medicaid rate cuts for pediatricians. They also talked of expanding managed care—a system that pays a physician a set rate upfront per patient rather than for each service provided.

HHSC Commissioner Tom Suehs called expanding managed care a “cost containment initiative,” arguing that it would save the state $367 million. However, state Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, called the move a “nuanced” way of “masquerading the reductions on clients.”

“This is another way of reducing what the clientele will be receiving,” Turner said. “My question is, when we say ‘cost containment,’ it sounds good, but with the embedded measure in the bill, are we going to be attending to fewer children?”

Turner, Suehs and others on the committee did agree that the proposed Medicaid rate cut—which according to the Legislative Budget Board would save the state nearly $2 billion—would severely jeopardize access to care by limiting the number of pediatricians and specialists available to treat children. If the state slashes Medicaid rates too much, many doctors may simply stop accepting Medicaid patients.

“I’m really concerned that with a rate cut, we’ll have access problems,” Suehs said.