Medicaid agency runs out of money : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Medicaid agency runs out of money 2001-03-09 By Lisa Tatum Staff Writer

The agency that administers the state’s Medicaid program spent its last available dollar Monday to pay health providers who care for the state’s poor and disabled. “We are at a cash-zero state as of today,” said Mike Fogarty, executive director of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority.

The board of directors governing the agency met Thursday to discuss the agency’s financial predicament. Without a $13.6 million emergency bailout from the Legislature next week — and a $6 million supplemental appropriation this summer — the agency will be faced with eliminating health benefits or possibly even closing its doors.

This week, the Legislature voted down an emergency funding clause in the appropriations bill that would have eased the cash crisis. The supplemental request was grouped with funding requests from other agencies that some Republican legislators deemed nonemergencies. Legislators will reconsider the decision next week.

The Health Care Authority is banking on the same positive response lawmakers gave last year when the agency asked for $9.3 million in extra funding to balance its annual budget.

This year, the agency is projecting a shortfall of $23 million.

Anne Garcia, the authority’s financial officer, said the $13.6 million boost would only put a bandage on the cash flow problem. Emergency funding is needed because regular supplemental appropriations take about 90 days to be processed.

Garcia said the agency needs money by the end of April.

Fogarty said the agency needs $20 million to get through the rest of its fiscal year that ends in June. He presented the board with a list of non-mandated services that could be temporarily cut.

Eliminating the services, which include some pharmacy benefits, behavioral health, home health and nursing and dental care, could save the agency $11 million, Fogarty said.

The recurring budget overruns are being blamed on an overwhelming increase in enrollment in the agency’s Soonercare program. Aggressive campaigns have identified and enrolled more children and pregnant women in the program than projected.

Ironically, another bill before the Legislature would cause that enrollment to increase again next year, setting the stage for an even bigger deficit at the agency.

Senate Bill 135 would raise Medicaid eligibility rates from 185 percent of the federal poverty level to 200 percent.

The cycle of adding eligible patients to an underfunded agency has elicited complaints from the Oklahoma State Medical Association.

“Our position is we are solidly behind getting as many children covered as we can,” said Dr. Edward Brandt, the association’s legislative counsel, “but the major issue is they are expanding eligibility without being able to pay for services.”

The Health Care Authority board of directors will hold an emergency meeting at 1 p.m. March 15 to discuss the possibility of program cuts.

-- Tess (, March 09, 2001

Moderation questions? read the FAQ