U.S. Lawmakers Vow Expanded Health Coverage for Hurricane Victims

via MedScape News: U.S. Lawmakers Vow Expanded Health Coverage for Hurricane Victims.

WASHINGTON, (Reuters Health) Sept 08 – Democrats in the U.S. House and Senate are pushing legislation that would dramatically expand federal funding for the Medicaid health program for the poor, both to states that suffered damage from Hurricane Katrina last week, as well as states that are now hosting tens of thousands of evacuees.

Currently, states share in the cost of Medicaid with the federal government. "But the states directly affected by Katrina, and those hosting the survivors, will not be able to put up their match payments due to the fiscal crisis that Katrina has created," said Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark. "This is a critical issue that’s got to be addressed immediately," she said.

Lincoln offered an amendment to an unrelated bill in the Senate to do just that. Her proposal, originally offered by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., as part of a broader hurricane relief proposal, would make it easier for states to enroll eligible people in Medicaid, and would expand Medicaid eligibility to all people below the poverty line. In many states, individuals must have incomes well below poverty to qualify for Medicaid coverage.

The measure would also have the federal government pay the full costs of Medicaid in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama — the states hardest hit by Katrina — as well as the full costs of individuals from those states who enroll in Medicaid in other states where they are living temporarily.