Topeka Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration is delaying the release of its plan for overhauling the Medicaid program in Kansas until next month so that it has the most current state revenue projections possible, his spokeswoman said Tuesday.
State officials, legislative researchers and university economists are scheduled to meet Nov. 4 to draft a new fiscal forecast that will project tax collections and other revenues through June 2013. The state’s current projections go only through June 2012, and Brownback’s spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag noted that the governor and legislators will use the new numbers in budgeting next year.
Administration officials had said they expected to release a plan by the end of this month for overhauling Medicaid, which covers medical services for the needy, with total annual spending in Kansas approaching $2.8 billion. Brownback has said his goal is to decrease costs while improving services.
Any proposed changes are likely to have budget implications, and Jones-Sontag said administration officials decided they didn’t want to make a plan public before they had up-to-date revenue projections.
“It would be — what is that phrase? — an exercise in futility,” Jones-Sontag told The Associated Press. “The numbers wouldn’t be accurate.”
Brownback also is working on a plan to revise the state’s tax code, with an eye toward reducing or eliminating state individual and corporate income taxes. That plan also was supposed to be released by the end of October, but the administration has pushed back an announcement until after the new fiscal forecast as well.
The administration’s effort to draft a Medicaid plan is led by Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, a surgeon and former state senator. Critics have worried Brownback’s administration will try to make it tougher for Kansans to qualify for Medicaid coverage or reduce the payments to doctors, clinics and hospitals that provide services to program participants.
Colyer has said any payment reduction to health care providers is “a last resort” and it wouldn’t be close to the temporary 10 percent reduction in payments ordered by Democratic Gov. Mark Parkinson in 2009 to ease the state’s budget problems. Colyer also has said the plan won’t narrow eligibility requirements to reduce the number of people covered.
The state’s Medicaid program covered about 332,000 people as of September, almost 16 percent more than in September 2010, and the program’s costs have increased 48 percent during the past eight years, stressing the state’s budget. The federal government, which oversees states’ programs and typically provides about 60 percent of the funds, would have to approve some major changes.