Budget woes continue for Medicaid expansion states

While more than a dozen states that chose to expand Medicaid have experienced enrollment success past projected numbers, that latest surge raises concerns that the pricey program is jeopardizing states' budgets.

After Kentucky's Medicaid numbers hit nearly 311,000 enrollees in 2014--more than double what was anticipated--the state revised its Medicaid spending budget from $33 million to $74 million for the 2017 fiscal year, according to an Associated Press analysis of the data.

Lawmakers worry that Medicaid will affect other program funding. Kentucky Sen. Chris McDaniel, a Republican, believes that the state's Medicaid costs will in turn reduce the amount of money that can be invested in higher education and other services, he tells the AP.

But supporters of the expansion program say it will end up saving their state money down the road. Democratic Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear predicts that because Medicaid will prompt some state-run services to be eliminated, it will stimulate the economy and create more jobs--up to 12,000, according to a study released earlier this year, notes the AP.

Elsewhere, Medicaid expansion states are experiencing similar budget woes. Michigan's costs increased by 50 percent while Ohio's nearly doubled. The AP found that earlier this year, nearly 22 states dealt with budget shortfalls for the 2016 fiscal year.

What's more, it was more costly to cover Medicaid beneficiaries than non-beneficiaries. Adults who became eligible for Medicaid in 2014 racked up $5,517 in average medical costs, overall costing the program $23.7 billion last year. In comparison, non-newly eligible adults' average benefit costs totaled $4,650 per person.

"I think, really, the only way to keep this manageable is to keep those costs under control, get people off Medicaid," Sen. Richard Devlin (D-Oregon), told the AP.

So far, 30 states and the District of Columbia have expanded Medicaid. Alaska became the latest state to do so last week after Gov. Bill Walker (I) announced he will apply directly to President Barack Obama's administration, which will prompt legislators to either call a special session or take action to stop his plans from moving forward.

For more:
- here's the AP story