Health Highlights: May 27, 2014

By on May 27, 2014

Health Highlights: May 27, 2014

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Higher-Than-Exepected Medicaid Enrollment Concerns States

Unexpectedly high numbers of Americans who were previously eligible for Medicaid but were not enrolled are now signing up, and states are facing unanticipated costs for that coverage.

Part of the reason why millions of these people have now decided to sign up for Medicaid is the widespread publicity about the need to be insured under the federal health care law, according to the Associated Press.

Under the law, states can expand Medicaid eligibility to people with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line — about $16,100 for an individual. The federal government will pay the entire cost of coverage through 2016. After that, Washington’s share will gradually be reduced to 90 percent.

This method of expanding Medicaid coverage has been accepted by about half the states. In states that don’t take this approach, the federal government will pay an average of about 60 percent of the cost of coverage for people who were previously Medicaid-eligible, the AP reported.

In California, about 300,000 more previously-eligible people are expected to enroll in Medicaid than was estimated last fall.

“Our policy goal is to get people covered, so in that sense it’s a success,” said state legislator Richard Pan, a Democrat who heads the California State Assembly’s health committee, the AP reported. “We are going to have to deal with how to support the success.”

There are many reasons why previously-eligible people didn’t sign up for Medicaid coverage in the past, including not being aware, not requiring coverage, or shame. But many have decided to sign up now due to the new health care law’s requirement that nearly all Americans have coverage or face fines.

States that strongly supported the federal health care law — such as California, Rhode Island and Washington — launched campaigns to promote all people to sign up for coverage, which likely helped convince many previously-eligible people to finally sign up for Medicaid.

But even states that opposed the health care law have seen significant rises in Medicaid enrollment, the AP reported. For example, there have been increases of 10 percent in Montana, 6 percent in Georgia and 5 percent in South Carolina, according to the market research firm Avalere Health.

“Anyone who didn’t budget for this is going to be behind the eight ball,” Avalere CEO Dan Mendelson told the AP. “It’s the kind of thing governors will want to discuss with the White House.”

“States are concerned about this,” Ray Scheppach, the former top staffer for the National Governors Association, told the AP. “It’s something they had been worried about right along.”


Michelle Obama to Tout Success of School Meals Standards

A White House event Tuesday hosted by Michelle Obama will highlight the success of the healthier school meal standards that are meant to help reduce childhood obesity.

The event is being held in response to a House Republican bill that would allow schools to opt out of the standards. The bill, approved by a House subcommittee last week, would permit schools to disregard the standards if they have a net loss on school food programs over a six-month period, the Associated Press reported.

The bill is a “real assault” on White House efforts to make meals healthier for children, according to Sam Kass, a White House chef and director of the first lady’s Let’s Move initiative to fight childhood obesity.

Tuesday’s event is meant to highlight the successes of some schools that have implemented the standards. Nutrition officials from schools across the nation will explain how well the standards are working, the AP reported.

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