Among the committee chairs presenting budget recommendations for their subject areas to JFAC this morning was Rep. Fred Wood, R-Burley, chairman of the Health & Welfare Committee. JFAC Co-Chair Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, questioned why Medicaid costs have seen such large swings over the years, sometimes requiring big supplemental appropriations, and other times, like this year, turning back millions; Wood said the history of the program for the past 15 years has been tumultuous, between federal funding changes, budget downturns, major updates to operating systems and more. Now, he said, it’s a more efficient system where it’s easier to see where the money goes. “I think we’ve tightened that down as far as we could get it,” he said.
Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, the Senate co-chair of JFAC, asked Wood, “Nobody knows more about the Health & Welfare budget in this room than you do, you’ve worked that budget inside and out and helped us thru some difficult times. … I hear rumors around in the halls once in a while now that we’re going to try and take another $32 million out of Medicaid. Do you think that that’s possible?”
Wood, who worked on the H&W budget for six years as a JFAC member before taking on the H&W committee chairmanship, said the budget when he first arrived had been increasing steeply, but that’s slowed, with increases the last six years at just over 3 percent. “I think we’ve bent that cost curve, under the current program, down about as far as we can,” he said. “I can’t see how you’re going to reduce it any more. … Until you get a good managed care program in place, I don’t think you’re going to reduce that. Because what you’re talking about now is reducing it by 7 or 8 percent. … I don’t know where you’re going to get that.” He noted that two years ago in HB 260, “We took $35 million out of that system, but that severely impacted it. … The following year we had to go back and put money in, because we truly impacted some individuals beyond the point of good care for the citizens, so I worry about doing that, I truly do.”