State health officials say they are working to cut costs, despite a growing demand for medical assistance in Wisconsin.
With many Wisconsinites still out of work, families are turning to government-assisted programs for medical coverage. Department of Health Services Secretary Karen Timberlake says thousands have signed up, and over 13,000 remain on waiting lists.
The demand comes at a time that state Medical Assistance programs are facing a $150 million shortfall and have also been asked to cut $633 million from the budget of DHS.
Timberlake appeared before the Legislature’s budget committee on Thursday to detail how the agency is trying to address the problem. She says the current plan is to focus on increasing efficiencies within MA programs, such as better controls on how payments are made and providing generic drug equivalents to patients.
However, Republican state Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) expressed concerns that taxpayers could end up shouldering the burden of the shortfall. She says DHS is pushing off some expenses to the next budget cycle or adding to the costs of providers.
Timberlake says they are working on other strategies. She says pending federal legislation could also help to close the gap, but officials want to be prepared just in case current efforts in Congress fall through.
AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (1:14)