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States ask feds for health care help

Staff Report • Nov 26, 2008 at 12:00 AM

In Utah, lawmakers have ended some physical therapy, vision and hearing services offered under Medicaid, the national health insurance program that serves 59 million needy. Nevada has capped enrollment in its state children's health insurance program (SCHIP). California, looking at a potential budget hole of more than $28 billion, is also considering freezing enrollment in its children's program - for the first time in the program's 10-year history.

According to Stateline.org, as the economy worsens, states are seeing boosts in enrollment in Medicaid and SCHIP while they struggle with their own fiscal problems. They're asking for relief from the federal government to prevent cutting benefits and people from these programs.

If federal help doesn't arrive soon, things could get worse for poor people who depend on public health insurance, say state officials and health care advocates.

"Medicaid and SCHIP are on the brink of deteriorating. The question is, are we going to step up and inject money into those programs so they can work during the downturn, or are we going to let them deteriorate?" said Jocelyn Guyer, the deputy executive director of Georgetown University's Center for Children and Families.

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