Community Health asks for extra millions for Medicaid
The state’s main health care agency is requesting an additional $36 million for the current fiscal year and an extra $203 million for fiscal 2019.
The board of the state Department of Community Health on Thursday, Aug. 24, approved those funding requests, which would be added to the base agency budget of $14.8 billion (most of that amount is federal money). Now they go to the governor’s office for consideration.
The requests come despite Gov. Nathan Deal saying that agencies should not seek additional spending over the upcoming year.
The Community Health budget is dominated by Medicaid expenditures. The health insurance program covers 1.8 million Georgians. Together with PeachCare and kids in the state employee and teacher plan, Community Health provides health care to about half of the children in Georgia.
One in four Georgians get health benefits through Community Health programs.
Lisa Walker, the agency’s chief financial officer, also said the state employee and teachers health plan, after declining budget surpluses, is projected to have a deficit of $241 million in fiscal year 2020. The State Health Benefit Plan covers about 650,000 state workers, teachers, other school personnel, retirees and dependents.
The budget outline also described a savings of $17.6 million this fiscal year as a result of the agency’s audit to verify eligible dependents in the State Health Benefit Plan.
The current fiscal year request includes $14 million in spending growth for Medicaid beneficiaries in the “Aged, Blind and Disabled’’ category. Community Health is also seeking $22 million in “disproportionate share’’ payments to hospitals that serve a high number of indigent patients.
Walker said that the 2019 budget assumed “everything remains the same,’’ regarding possible changes to the Affordable Care Act. Attempts to repeal the 2010 law have stalled in Congress.
The 2019 budget increase includes a request for an additional $143 million for Medicaid. It also contains $12 million for a 3 percent increase in Medicaid rates paid to nursing homes.
Board member Roger Folsom said that Community Health should look for ways to emphasize preventive care for covered beneficiaries. Such treatment for people with diabetes, he noted, can save money on expensive care in future years.
Folsom said he worried about the “future sustainability’’ of Medicaid and other health programs. “We have to look at the budget three, four, five years down the road.”
The budget outline also features $2.3 million for 131 new medical residency slots, part of a push to persuade newly graduated physicians to practice in Georgia.
Fiscal year 2019 begins next July 1.