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Gov. Phil Bryant wants to perform a magic trick of sorts: reform Mississippi‘s Medicaid program so that it doesn’t cost any more state money next year. Program officials were expecting costs to increase by 16 percent.
The essence of making funds stretch is changing how the state pays hospitals to care for Medicaid patients. That group is mostly poor children, but includes some parents, disabled adults, and senior citizens.
Medicaid will cost Mississippi $763 million this year. Bryant, in releasing his budget Tuesday, called it “the elephant in the phone booth.”
Democratic lawmakers are questioning whether Bryant is just camouflaging cost cutting, which could mean less care for patients or less money for hospitals.
“It’s smoke and mirrors for cuts,” said Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville. “That’s all it is.”
The hospitals, for their part, say they want to see details.
“I think we have to withhold judgment until we see what they’re going to actually propose,” said Gwen Combs, vice president for policy at the Mississippi Hospital Association.
The state only pays for about 20 percent of the program’s overall $3.9 billion cost, with most of the rest of that money coming from federal sources. But even that fraction is steadily devouring Mississippi’s strained budget, as the recession has driven up the ranks of beneficiaries and hospitals costs have risen 19 percent in the past two years.
State officials said Mississippi’s program is a relatively rich revenue source for hospitals, noting that Mississippi hospitals are among the most profitable in the country. But hospitals are directly taxed to cover about a third of the state’s Medicaid costs. That money, an estimated $253 million this year, is used to match federal funds.
Bryant said Tuesday that Medicaid projected it would need $883 million in the budget year beginning July 1. Most agencies are already in line for 5.5 percent cuts under the new governor’s first spending plan, and Bryant said there was no way to absorb that kind of cost increase without much deeper cuts, since he rules out tax increases.
So Bryant ordered Medicaid to come up with a plan by March 1 to change how Medicaid pays hospitals.
via Bryant aims to stretch Medicaid by payment changes: Associated Press Business News – MSN Money.