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Archive for Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Rising medical costs worry SRS chief

May 26, 2004

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— Money will remain tight for programs helping the needy because costs associated with medical services continue to rise quickly, the state's top social services official said Tuesday.

Secretary Janet Schalansky said the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services expected medical services costs to increase 14 percent during the fiscal year beginning July 1, putting pressure on SRS to rein in costs elsewhere.

Schalansky also said she believed the department did not have many places to look to make its administration leaner, thanks to its efforts to reorganize and make the delivery of services more efficient.

"We've got a challenge," Schalansky told reporters at a news conference. "The state is going to have to decide who it wants to serve and at what level."

The Legislature approved a $2.46 billion budget for SRS for the fiscal year beginning July 1, an increase of more than 13 percent. However, much of the increase will be used to keep up with medical services costs -- and provide the first increase in reimbursements in two decades to doctors and hospitals caring for the needy.

SRS officials are not only worried about the current fiscal year, but are looking toward fiscal year 2006 as well. The agency must submit its budget proposals to Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' staff by Oct. 1.

Schalansky said more people are accessing SRS medical services, while prescription drug costs continue to rise. Also, SRS provides services to the elderly and disabled, and their care is becoming more expensive, Schalansky said.

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