MEDICAID CUTS

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FYI: While offering a $99.8 billion budget that was widely considered an effort to avoid the political battles of last year’s budgeting process, Governor Pataki proposed Medicaid cost-cutting steps that healthcare advocates called “devastating.” Pataki pleased local governments by proposing to cut their share of nursing home and long-term care costs (the most expensive part of the program) by $181 million immediately and $1 billion by 2008. But the governor also proposed raising the income qualification bar for seniors and people with disabilities seeking long-term care by adding their spouses’ income into the formula. Critics note that this will worsen the existing problem of working-class seniors “spending down” their income to qualify and put spouses in the position of deciding whether they must quit their jobs in order to get adequate care for loved ones. Pataki also suggested cutting dental and vision benefits from Family Health Plus and raising co-pays, as well as moving more children from Medicaid to Child Health Plus, which does not offer homecare benefits for those with disabilities. [1/21/03]