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Articles of Interest - Michigan

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Bridges4Kids LogoMichigan House Appropriations Chair Marc Shulman Prepares To Talk Medicaid Reform
MIRS, April 2, 2004
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The House Appropriations Committee Chair Marc SHULMAN (R-West Bloomfield) believes it's time to start looking at Medicaid reform and that's why he expects to release a Medicaid issue white paper outlining reforms when lawmakers return from the Easter recess.

"That really is the albatross [of the budget]," said Shulman, about a program that consumes 25 percent of the state's General Fund budget. "I'm working on a position paper, which I hope by the time we return I'll be in a position to publish and put out."

While providing few details, Shulman said the Medicaid reform proposals put out by President George W. BUSH contain a lot of good ideas. In January 2003, Bush released a proposal that would give states a set amount and allow them greater flexibility to shape their own program addressing Medicaid populations and the benefits offered.

Under the President's plan, total Medicaid spending must remain budget neutral over 10 years, so the additional money Michigan could receive during the first seven years would be offset with decreases in funding during the last three years. Questions have been raised about whether this plan gives the type of flexibility states want and whether the type of coverage a state offers would suffer during tight budget times.

"There are some opportunities within the Medicaid proposal of the President to reduce our Medicaid budget," said Shulman.

Shulman said his work on Medicaid reform proposals is his alone and not a caucus or task force project.

"Other people may have different ideas. I think I indicated when the governor presented her budget that there has to be a long term strategy to address Medicaid and implementation of that," said Shulman. "I haven't seen it yet, at least from the administration. I'm sure they're working on something. I'd like to try to speed up the process because the temporary fiscal relief we received last year, we're not going to receive it again."

Governor Spokeswoman Mary DETLOFF said the administration continues to work on the Medicaid program. Prior to being sworn in, Granholm held a large Medicaid reform workshop. Since that time, however, the administration has not put forward any "omnibus" Medicaid reform package.

"The major issue we're facing right now with Medicaid is the fact that the federal government has changed several policies that has decreased Medicaid funding by $700 million and our caseloads keep going up," said Detloff.

Shulman noted that the state has a shortfall in Medicaid in the current Fiscal Year (FY) of at least $100 million. The Appropriations Chair declined to say the Michigan Medicaid program is "too generous" but did admit the benefits aren't bad.

"There was a time, there still might be, when we were taking people off welfare and putting them back to work," Shulman said. "However, from the standpoint of health care they were better off to have stayed on Medicaid because the benefits were better than in the workplace."

Shulman noted that health care costs are skyrocketing and the state needs to look at Medicaid eligibility.

"That is what part of my ideas are in relation to the Medicaid program," he added.
 

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Bernero on Fat School Kids
MIRS, April 2, 2004

Unsuccessful in his attempts to ban pop machines in schools, Sen. Virgil Bernero (D-Lansing) is back with a plan to limit the intake of fat on the school cafeteria line.

"We have an obesity epidemic," complains Bernero, who will introduce legislation to outlaw all food containing more than eight grams of fat.

We must "set nutrition standards in the four walls of the cafeteria and in the school. Limiting fat content will get rid of Twinkies, Ho-Hos, the chips, the soda pop given to our kids," he said.

Bernero is convinced most parents don't know what is being fed to their children at schools. "A lot of kids are having chips and a soda for lunch."

Recent reports indicate the state spends upwards of $3 billion on health care for overweight children each year.

"This is outrageous. The garbage we have filled our schools with . . . it is practically criminal," Bernero added.

His ban on soda pop in schools and his tax on soda pop never got out of Senate committee. Bernero is hoping to get his latest anti-fat bill assigned to the Senate Health Policy panel chaired by Sen. Bev Hammerstrom (R-Temperance).

Bernero serves on that committee along with the senate's only medical doctor Sen. Tom George (R-Kalamazoo).

    

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