Double-digit Medicaid growth pile-drives Texas budget

Not only is Texas facing a shortfall of $11 billion to $15 billion when the next state budget is due in 2011, but unanticipated healthcare costs have already driven the state's current two-year budget, just six months after passage, into the red as well, reports the Dallas Morning News. Medicaid is the primary culprit, accounting for $1.3 billion of the deficit. Other offenders include health coverage for state employees ($142 million); correctional managed healthcare ($88 million); eligibility screening for Medicaid, Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and two other programs ($81 million); and CHIP itself ($72 million).

Texas lawmakers had budgeted for 3.4 percent annual growth in the state's Medicaid program. However, the current growth rate is 11 percent, says Health and Human Services Commissioner Tom Suehs. Medicaid enrollment nationwide has been growing at unanticipated speeds since the recession began, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation's Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured. From June 2008 to June 2009, 32 states experienced growth that was at least twice as fast as the previous year, and 13 states saw double-digit percentage growth.

Texas officials have asked state agencies for ideas for trimming the budget. Proposed cuts include slashing beds at state mental hospitals, cutting Medicaid payments at family planning clinics and reducing a start-up fund for community health clinics.

To learn more about Texas' budget woes:
- read the Dallas Morning News article