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Healthcare hit by economic woes

Oct. 29, 2008 at 12:52 PM

WASHINGTON, Oct. 29 (UPI) -- A Washington think tank reports at least 27 states are facing budget gaps that could affect healthcare programs for low-income adults and children.

Elizabeth McNichol, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, says states are permitted to make cuts in their optional Medicaid programs, USA Today reported Wednesday.

"We're expecting budget gaps for the rest of this year and into fiscal 2010 to be about $100 billion," McNichol said. "Healthcare gets hit hard when states have to cut back."

This month Massachusetts cut $293 million from its Medicaid budget while Hawaii halted funding for a program aimed at covering all the state's uninsured children, the newspaper reported. In South Carolina, Gov. Mark Sanford must decide this week whether to sign a budget that slashes healthcare funds by $160 million.

"When the economy goes down, states have increased pressure (from more uninsured), yet have to curtail plans to broaden coverage," Diane Rowland of the Kaiser Family Foundation told USA Today.

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