N.C. halts circumcision funding

October 03, 2002|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - North Carolina is eliminating Medicaid funding for routine infant circumcisions, a controversial decision that has a minute impact on the state budget, but significant implications for some new parents. "I think folks were tired of arguing about it. And I think there was extremely strong sentiment to take it out," said state Sen. Fountain Odom, a Mecklenburg County Democrat.

Assuming Gov. Michael F. Easley signs the budget, most Medicaid-funded circumcisions should come to an end by November, said a spokeswoman for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

Medicaid is the government program that pays medical bills for the poor and disabled.

Circumcision is a surgical procedure to remove the foreskin from a young boy's penis, usually performed in less than 10 minutes.

Each year, about 52 percent of North Carolina Medicaid male newborns are circumcised. In South Carolina, it's 71 percent.

North Carolina legislators say they eliminated the circumcision part of Medicaid for two reasons: Increasingly, doctors' groups have said the procedure is not medically necessary. And because of a budget crunch, necessary services had to be prioritized.

Nine state Medicaid programs do not fund routine infant circumcisions. Three, including North Carolina, stopped this year.

In North Carolina, the budget cut amounts to $400,000, or less than 0.003 percent of the $14.3 billion total budget.

The Medicaid program is funded by the state with an almost 200 percent federal match, so the $400,000 in state funding for Medicaid circumcisions translates to about $1.25 million overall.

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