Best hope for Medicaid is the economy perking up, health secretary says

12/20/2010 08:18 AM

The state’s top health cabinet official says she hopes an economic bounce-back would take pressure off the state’s overburdened Medicaid system that has ballooned to more than 800,000 enrollees.

“Part of this issue really has to do with nothing other than the economic effect of people losing their jobs and relying on this for health care coverage,” she said.

Medicaid is a federal-state partnership that covers health care for the poor and disabled. The program costs $6 billion in Kentucky, of which between 70% to 80% is covered by the federal government.

Before the recession, the state was adding 300-400 new Medicaid enrollees per month, Miller said. Now it has been averaging up to 3,300 per month new names on the rolls.

But Miller left open the possibility of curbing or peeling back optional medical services eventually if the program needs to scale back its costs.

Miller also said that the recent state audit of the Passport Health Plan that found excessive spending on travel and lobbying shouldn’t discourage the state from looking at other managed care set-ups to try to save money in the Medicaid program in the future.

“We don’t think the problems with Passport are really an indictment of managed care,” Miller said.

- Ryan Alessi

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