Panel kicks off study of Medicaid revision

Georgia now spends one out of every six of its budget dollars on Medicaid – nearly $3 billion a year in state funds – and that spending growth has caused some concern among lawmakers.

A legislative study committee that was created to develop recommendations for revising the Medicaid program held its first meeting Wednesday, with plans to wrap up its efforts before the end of the year.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do before Dec. 31,” said Rep. Butch Parrish (R-Swainsboro), who co-chairs the committee with state Sen. Tim Golden (R-Valdosta).

Medicaid provides health insurance coverage to nearly 1.8 million low-income Georgians. The Department of Community Health (DCH), which administers Medicaid, spent a total of $12.7 billion during fiscal year 2013 — $2.8 billion of that total was state money, with the rest coming from the federal government.

“We want to be fiscally sound in our management of the system,” Golden said.

Wednesday’s meeting was devoted to a briefing on the program by Jerry Dubberly, DCH’s Medicaid director, and his data indicated that Georgia already does a better job than nearly every other southern state of holding down Medicaid utilization and expenditures.

Southern states, on average, provide Medicaid coverage to 19.8 percent of their population. Georgia has a lower than average percentage of its population receiving Medicaid assistance – 19.3 percent.

Georgia spent $831 per capita on Medicaid during fiscal year. Virginia was the only southern state that spent less, at $830 per capita.

Georgia was considerably lower than every other southern state in the average amount of money it spent on each Medicaid recipient: $3,717 in fiscal year 2010. The next lowest was Mississippi at $4,197 per recipient, while states like Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia spent more than $5,500 per recipient.

Dubberly raised the question of whether Georgia might be better served by putting more resources into Medicaid.

“At some point we need to discuss, is it good to be at the bottom of this list?” Dubberly asked.

When questioned by Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe) about that remark, Dubberly said, “It could be argued that we might have better healthcare outcomes if we invested more.”

Dubberly added: “Is that the right amount (to spend on Medicaid)? That’s the ongoing discussion and it’s a fair question.”

The Medicaid study committee was created through the legislative passage of HR 107.

Ironically, the author of HR 107, Donna Sheldon, resigned from the Legislature earlier this week to devote full time to running for Congress, so she will not be participating in any of the study committee meetings.

The committee members include Golden and Sens. Jack Hill (R-Reidsville), Gloria Butler (D-Stone Mountain), Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody), Renee Unterman (R-Buford) and Dean Burke (R-Bainbridge).

House members on the committee are Parrish, Williamson, and Reps. Richard Smith (R-Columbus), Craig Gordon (D-Savannah), and Darlene Taylor (R-Thomasville).

Parrish said the next committee meeting is scheduled for Sept. 23.

© 2013 by The Georgia Report


Tags: Butch Parrish , DCH , Jerry Dubberly , Medicaid , program revisions , state funding , Tim Golden