Wisconsin might have to cut over a billion-dollars from Badger-Care Plus and its other health programs for the poor-and-disabled. A shortage of tax revenues has created a huge deficit for Medicaid, at a time when more people are turning to government coverage as they lose their jobs and private insurance.
Over the last eight months, state health officials have identified over 600-million dollars in cost savings. And the Legislative Fiscal Bureau says another 450-million may have to be cut to balance the Medicaid budget by July of 2011. Medicaid administrator Jason Helgerson says every state faces these problems and the federal government has been picking up a bigger share of the tab with stimulus dollars. Other states have made across-the-board cuts in their Medicaid programs.
But health services secretary Karen Timberlake says Wisconsin has tried to find specific cost savings to preserve as much as possible and they’ve gotten help from care providers, advocacy groups, and others. They’ve taken 66 steps to cut costs including the use of generic drugs, rewriting contracts, delaying payments when possible, and cutting reimbursements to hospitals. They’ve even stopped giving full reimbursements to 59 rural hospitals for which the payments are “critical” for staying open. Helgerson says the state just couldn’t afford it anymore.