To the editor:
The July 17 editorial, "Shared responsibility," is correct to point out the duty federal officials have to make Medicaid regulations clear to state policymakers in Kansas. This, however, should not be the only lesson learned from the millions of dollars the state of Kansas is being forced to refund to the federal government. Indeed, the controversy underscores a significant problem with Medicaid to which Kansas policymakers must face up.
The truth is that there is more at stake here than whether federal or state officials are in the right. Because of a financial arrangement whereby the federal government pays roughly 60 cents for every 40 cents that states spend, there is a strong incentive for states to draw down more than they should. Taxpayers are paying for all of the spending, though - whether it is the 60 percent or the 40 percent portion - and they end up as the ultimate losers in this situation.
Medicaid spending in Kansas is the fastest-growing area in the budget, and policymakers are having trouble maintaining their ever-larger 40 percent portion. They must recognize that all the creative financing in the world will not transform Medicaid into a sustainable program.
Unless Kansas policymakers institute reforms that address the fundamental flaws plaguing the program, Medicaid will remain on a course to bankrupt the state. Federal officials are open to and interested in creative solutions to Medicaid's financial troubles, leaving the responsibility to follow through squarely on the shoulders of leaders here in Kansas.