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By Rose Hoban
Spending in the state’s Medicaid program is down slightly in the past two months, a state health official told lawmakers Tuesday.
During a meeting of the Health and Human Services oversight committee at the state legislature, Medicaid chief business officer Steve Owen told lawmakers that compared to budget projections, the program had spent about $4 million dollars less than forecast.
That figure comes to less than one half of one percent of total state dollars spent annually on the program that primarily serves disabled people, poor seniors in nursing homes and low-income children.
“If everything was equal in terms of enrollment, we’d actually be over budget, because we’re seeing more expensive patients during that time,” Owen told the committee “But we’re seeing a lower consumption level.”
Lawmakers expressed their satisfaction with the trend. Last year, the state Medicaid program had an overrun of more than $275 million, out of a total budget of more than $4.5 billion state dollars.
Owen told the panel the program was seeing more activity from the “aged, blind and disabled” patient pool, a group that costs on average $1422 per month to cover, while seeing substantially decreased activity in children patients, who cost only about $177 per month.
In last year’s budget, more than $20 million in funding for a number of programs was delayed for six months, pending the state of the overall Medicaid budget on Jan 1, 2013. Those programs include a preschool reading program, funds for additional psychiatric beds in community hospitals and at Broughton Hospital and money for county health departments to run prevention programs.