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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Ala. Medicaid Ask for $700M

The loss of federal stimulus dollars and the continuing increase of the number of people in Alabama who are eligible for Medicaid has doubled what the state needs just to level fund existing services.

Dr. R. Bob Mullins, new commissioner for Alabama Medicaid, told lawmakers Wednesday that his agency needs an estimated $700 million to continue offering the bare minimum of what the state’s conservative program already provides.

The money would help support the 91,000 new enrollees who have become eligible for Medicaid since fiscal 2010. It also would fill in the gap for the $270 million in federal stimulus money that the state will lose after this year, and make up for a less favorable federal matching rate that goes into effect in fiscal 2012. Lawmakers appropriated about $345 million from the state General Fund for fiscal 2011.

Mullins, who only has been on the job for a little over three weeks, clearly recognized the staggering nature of the news he was delivering to state lawmakers. Lawmakers learned Tuesday that they are facing budgets that have healthy deficits for fiscal 2012.

“Between the budget and the state merit system this job is wearing thin in a hurry,” Mullins joked. “I was thinking that I must be out of my mind to take this job. I’m beginning to wonder if I was.”

Mullins is feeling the heat because he’s asking for a significant chunk of the state’s General Fund during a year when the state is expecting a more than $131 million shortfall and even greater deficits in fiscal 2012. Those shortfalls are only compounded by the fact that when federal health care reform starts to kick in just two years, the program will have to absorb more people.

But that didn’t stop Mullins from impressing upon state lawmakers how Medicaid not only undergirds the state’s rural health system, but also is intertwined with the health care of Alabamians who have private health insurance.

-- posted by Markeshia Ricks

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