Oct 12, 2009

AHCA Health eNotes from Holly Benson

Last week legislators returned to Tallahassee for their first fall committee week. We welcomed back several new chairmen and members and celebrated the swearing in of Senator Joe Negron.

And then we rolled up our sleeves. . . As the news came in from Washington about proposals for Federal health care reform, legislators turned their focus to what the proposals mean for Florida, and they began to ask questions about the outlook for next fiscal year.

Every year before the Legislature begins its Session there are several estimating conferences. In a week from now, our team will be making presentations on our projections for the Medicaid caseload and for the expenditures required to meet that demand.

Our Fiscal Years run from July 1st through June 30th. For the last Fiscal Year, 2008-09, the Legislature budgeted for our Agency to serve 2.25 million Floridians; the actual caseload was 148,344 more than projected. For the current Fiscal Year, we budgeted for 2,624,014 Floridians, and at the last estimating conference, we reported our projections for our caseload in July of next year to be 2,709,461 Floridians. And for the July after that, 2,852,874 Floridians will be on our rolls. And those numbers are before the projections incorporating the proposals Congress is debating.

We are the second largest agency in state government and represent nearly 28% of the budget. For this Fiscal Year, the Legislature gave us a total budget of $17,469,075,957, but as of July we are estimating that the total cost this year will be $17,949,620,772. Because we are an entitlement program, our recipients are entitled to these services, and the Legislature is required to make up any budget shortfalls in the following year. So next spring the Legislature will not only have to fund the shortfalls, but they will also have to find $18,224,270,969 to fund the Medicaid program for the next Fiscal Year.

Our Medicaid Program Analysis Bureau Chief Michelle Hudson and her team spend a great deal of time on these projections in an effort to help the Legislature with their budgeting process. They base their calculations on a variety of elements, including the various services we cover and the historical caseload trends.

As we begin our preparations for the year ahead, we are looking for creative solutions to meet the needs of our recipients and to stretch taxpayers’ resources as far as possible. We remain committed to making a meaningful difference for all of the people whom we serve.

Holly Benson