Sign of the times: Louisiana bracing for deep Medicaid cuts

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Faithful followers are well aware of the Network's concern over the perception that Medicaid funding will be the panacea for funding proven effective services and supports for youth with serious emotional challenges and their families in this new era of health care reform. The "quiet talk" we hear from mental health program administrators typically leads to discussions that include the phrases "I don't know how we are going to pay for it" and "the rates are so low we surely won't be able to get quality providers to deliver the services."

So we were painfully reminded of the accuracy of our hunch when the San Francisco Chronicle reported today that Louisiana's health department is hard at work trying to figure out how to strip $859 million from the states Medicaid program for the poor and uninsured cutting 11 percent of the funding for health services after Congress unexpectedly slashed the state's Medicaid payment. It turns out that due to an error in a provision that US Senator Mary Landrieu added to the federal health care overhaul law that was designed to buffer Louisiana from a Medicaid rate drop because of the influx of rebuilding dollars after hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, hundreds of millions more were sent to Louisiana than what was initially expected.

The Chronicle article stated that it is likely that funding to the LSU public hospitals and rural hospitals will be slashed, threatening some facilities with closure. The rates paid to the doctors, clinics and other health providers who care for Medicaid patients would be slashed up to 10 percent.

Regardless of the reason for the reduction, this won't be the first example we see of this. You can see how fragile the slope is when you bank solely on expected Medicaid dollars to fund your programs.

Stay vigilant Network faithful and be ready to speak out on behalf of children and families as states increasingly will be forced to make tough decisions. 2013 and 2014 are going to be hard-fought years for children's mental health.

Read the San Francisco Chronicle article here.

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