A first: CMS allows Arizona to freeze an emergency-only Medicaid program

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Gov. Jan Brewer (AZ-R)
Gov. Jan Brewer (AZ-R)
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has opened a new door, agreeing for the first time to allow a state to end a Medicaid program that offers temporary help for residents who have had catastrophic injuries or illnesses.

CMS approved Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer's request, which would save the struggling state $70 million during its fiscal year 2012 budget. It is the first of several Medicaid cuts Brewer has proposed, according to The Arizona Republic. The program has 5,700 individuals, including 1,000 children, who qualify for Medicaid by virtue of a catastrophic medical problem. It is intended to provide help for three to six months and will end Oct. 1.

CMS officials say they regret Arizona's actions, the newspaper reports. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius allowed Brewer to cut the emergency short-term coverage because the federal Medicaid program does not require this coverage. But other federal officials are hesitant to endorse the cuts because of President Obama's plan to insure more people.

This cut is part of a package of additional cuts that would save the state $500 million. Brewer also has asked CMS to allow her to freeze enrollment in two other Medicaid programs. She also proposes implementing new co-pays and fees, restricting benefits and lowering reimbursement rates to healthcare providers. These changes would cut more than 136,000 people from the Arizona Medicaid rolls.