September 23, 2017 10:02:23 PM
JACKSON -- The Mississippi Medicaid program is requesting more money to pay for services during the state budget year that ends in June.
It has made similar requests in recent years, and those have been at least partially fulfilled. Legislators say writing the Medicaid budget is challenging because it's hard to predict, months in advance, how many prescriptions, doctors' office visits or other services the recipients will use.
"The numbers always change," said Senate President Pro Tempore Terry Burton, a Republican from Newton.
Medicaid is a public health insurance program for the needy, aged blind and disabled, and for low-income families with children. It covers about one in four Mississippi residents, and director David Dzielak said the program pays for about 65 percent of births.
Because Mississippi is poor, the federal government pays about 75 percent of the cost. The state pays the rest.
Medicaid started the current year with $919 million in state funding and is requesting another $47 million. Even if legislators fulfill the midyear funding request, the program would still have a smaller budget this year than it had either of the past two years.
The program is requesting state funding of nearly $984 million for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, 2018.
As he presented the Medicaid budget request to lawmakers Friday, Dzielak said the program is saving some money by restricting employees' travel and reducing the amount it pays for some contracts. It also recovered $8.6 million from health care providers for money that was misspent during the year that ended June 30.
House Speaker Philip Gunn, a Republican from Clinton, told Dzielak: "Don't take this as criticism. While every savings is good savings, you're not even approaching $10 million here on a $1 billion budget."
Dzielak said 95 percent of the Medicaid budget is spent on health care providers, with a small portion on administration.
"We're doing the best we can," he said.
Dzielak said Medicaid's largest category of spending is for inpatient hospital services. The next three, in order, are long-term care, pharmacy expenses and physician costs.
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