States may suffer in long run with cuts to services for elderly, news accounts suggest

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MedPAC may recommend freezing Medicare payments for skilled nursing facilities for 2011
MedPAC may recommend freezing Medicare payments for skilled nursing facilities for 2011
In an effort to overcome budget deficits for the new fiscal year, many states have reduced Medicaid spending on services for low-income seniors. And that could have negative long-term implications, according to news reports.

As many as 22 states, including the District of Columbia, have slashed spending on these types of services, The Associated Press reported. Illinois has cut $40 million from a prescription drug program. That has left roughly 150,000 seniors with higher out-of-pocket payments for drugs. Maryland has made reductions to its Medicaid reimbursement rates for nursing homes and hospital stays. Though many of the programs being cut in some other states are considered optional—primarily dental and vision services for the elderly—healthcare advocates say the lack of coverage will send more seniors to the emergency room. That may drive up costs elsewhere in the system, the AP reported.

California, which has been dealing with a crippling financial crisis, has also cut many of its services to seniors, including many in-home healthcare benefits under Medi-Cal, the state's version of Medicaid. These cuts could be driving more seniors into state nursing homes. This may cost more per patient than the home-health services, according to a recent story on National Public Radio.