HHS sending teams of budget experts to troubled states for Medicaid help

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In an effort to help keep Medicaid off the chopping block in states with budget shortfalls, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has offered to send teams of HHS staffers to states that request assistance.

Medicaid, which is the largest source of funding for nursing homes, eats up an average of one-fifth of state budgets, and some states, such as Arizona, are considering dropping out of Medicaid completely. States are also feeling squeezed as new healthcare reform laws ban states from tightening eligibility rules between now and 2014. Those changes will make 16 million more people eligible for Medicaid, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

HHS officials say that some states are asking for help coordinating care for dual eligible individuals, or individuals that receive both Medicare and Medicaid. Often, these patients are elderly and have another disability, making them some of the most expensive beneficiaries to cover. Sebelius is also expected to provide guidance for healthcare providers regarding Medicaid reimbursement rates, as several states are considering cutting reimbursement rates for doctors and hospitals. Medicaid officials worry this could cause doctors to turn away Medicaid patients.