Budget panel approves $2.23 billion Medicaid budget; hikes spending 6.2%

Budget panel approves $2.23 billion Medicaid budget; hikes spending 6.2%

by
Dustin Hurst
February 28, 2016
Dustin Hurst
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February 28, 2016

Idaho’s Medicaid program may cost as much as $2.23 billion in fiscal year 2017. The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee finalized the program’s budget Friday.

The spending plan, which needs House and Senate approval, would add $130 million in new Medicaid money next fiscal year, which begins July 1, 2016.

Because the state shares Medicaid funding responsibilities with the federal government, Idaho’s general fund obligation would increase $16.9 million in 2017, a 3.4 percent hike. Total state spending will be $519.6 million in 2017 if legislators approve JFAC’s budget.

The federal government’s spending increase in Idaho would be more substantial. JFAC approved $79.7 million in new federal money, including $17.1 million to help some health care providers transition from paper to electronic health records.

Overall, the plan calls for $1.4 billion in federal spending for Medicaid next fiscal year.

The budget also includes a $33.6 million increase in dedicated dollars for 2017, a 12.5 percent hike. Dedicated funds total $303.1 million for Medicaid in 2017.

JFAC’s recommendation comes in above what Idaho Gov. Butch Otter requested for next year. He suggested a $2.21 billion budget, which included $5 million less in general fund spending.

Budget committee members passed the budget 17 to 0.

Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Grangeville, prepared an alternative budget that stripped out the $17.1 million in federal dollars for records transition, but she was absent when she could have proposed her plan. Her Medicaid budget called for $2.21 billion for Medicaid in 2017, or a 5.4 percent hike.

The budget now heading to the House and Senate includes $2.83 million in state funding and $6.93 million in federal dollars for Transitional Medicaid payments, an expense reauthorized in 2017 after a multi-year absence.

Transitional Medicaid allows Idahoans who disqualify themselves from the program, because they earn too much money, to continue receiving benefits for up to one year.

The House Health and Welfare adopted that program earlier this year because the federal government reauthorized Transitional Medicaid payments in late 2015. Congress originally repealed the temporary coverage as part of Obamacare, which required states to expand Medicaid to the working poor, thus making the transitional payments unnecessary.

But, in a June 2012 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down mandatory Medicaid expansion from Obamacare. Since then, however, states had — and continue to have — the option to accept program expansion. Idaho and several other states have hesitated, as they see flaws if they sign on to an open-ended entitlement expansion.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare believes the transitional payments help Idahoans who look to become active again in the workforce.

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