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Legislators question rising Medicaid costs in budget

It's growing faster than any other part of state government. We're talking about paying for Medicaid.
It's growing faster than any other part of state government. We're talking about paying for Medicaid.

Legislators at the state capital in Little Rock looking over the upcoming budget for fiscal year 2013 see one big difference, $114 million more or Medicaid.

It's the biggest increase in Governor Beebe's nearly $5 billion dollar budget proposal.

Department of Human Services director John Selig says 10% of Medicaid recipients, the elderly and disabled, account for 90% of the growing costs.

"It really is just the existing Medicaid program continues to grow like other health care programs and we're trying to change the program to manage that growth better," Selig says. "Everyone who has their own health insurance, they see those rates going up also. Until we get as a country and here in Arkansas a better handle on what we're spending and how our health care system works we're going to continue to see increases."

Senator Gilbert Baker (R-Conway) says legislators want details on the long-term future for Medicaid.

"Constituents need to look at it and say this is a big chunk of money, let's make sure we're spending it right," Baker says.

But joint budget committee co-chair Rep Kathy Webb (D-Little Rock) asked legislators Thursday to stay focused on the budget in front of them.

"This is the appropriate place to talk about Medicaid for 2013,” Webb says. “This is not the forum to talk about the Medicaid overhaul and Medicaid in the long run."

But that time is coming.

Medicaid faces a $250 million shortfall for next budget year.

Beebe is working on overhauling Medicaid to slow the growth in rising costs in future years.
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