In an effort to curb rising healthcare costs, states are limiting Medicaid hospital coverage for the poor to as few as 10 days a year. State governments claim the move is necessary to balance their meager budgets which have been battered by the economic downturn and the end to federal stimulus funding that helped keep their Medicaid programs afloat. Hospital executives and advocates for the impoverished adamantly oppose the measure, as it will place limits on medical care, bear more costs to hospitals, and inflate charges for privately insured patients.
Some states will be instituting more stringent restrictions than others, as Arizona plans to limit Medicaid recipients to 25 days of coverage while Hawaii plans to slash coverage to a mere 10 days a year, the fewest of any other state. The restrictions will not include children, the elderly, disabled, pregnant women, and those receiving cancer treatment.
America’s Health Insurance Plans, a trade association for the health insurance industry, says private insurers generally do not limit hospital coverage. Rosemary Blackmon, executive vice president of the Alabama Hospital Association, said that "for the most part hospitals do what they can" to treat Medicaid patients despite government limits. Likewise, Arizona hospitals will not discharge or refuse treatment to Medicaid patients who need care, asserted Peter Wertheim, spokesman for the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association, so "hospitals will get stuck with the bill."
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