The latest installment in North Carolina’s current-year funding shortfall for the Medicaid program hinges around a short exchange between HHS chairman Rep. Nelson Dollar and Sen. Martin Nesbitt. Rather than discuss the legislature’s current dilemma of how to address a $149 million shortfall in current-year funding for the program – a shortfall created by state appropriations hundreds of millions below continuation requirements – Rep. Dollar spoke about the prior year’s shortfall and how it was addressed. When Sen. Nesbitt pointed out the legislature’s need to take action on the current problem, Rep. Dollar would only say that the legislature would take “appropriate action” on the shortfall when the short session begins in May.
This may be cutting it a bit too close since Medicaid will literally run out of money to pay claims by May, according to statements made by DHHS staff at a public meeting of the Medical Care Advisory Committee in December 2011. Appropriate action, in the form of expanded budget authorization for Medicaid to continue paying claims to providers on behalf of patients served, needs to be taken sooner than later in order to assure uninterrupted care for those who depend on the program for their health care. It’s already too late in the year for any cost savings to be achieved by eliminating services, which simply increases long-run costs and pushes the impact down the road, and there are no other options available that would close the gap in time for the state to close the books on a balanced budget at the end of June.