As Louisiana policymakers convene for a special session to address a $304 midyear budget gap, some analysts are claiming that growth in the state’s Medicaid budget is to blame for cuts in other areas of the state budget. Former state Treasurer (now U.S. Senator) John Kennedy recently made the case in the Livingston Parish News:
The rising cost of Medicaid is why TOPS has been cut. The rising cost of Medicaid is why we can’t pay our teachers more. The rising cost of Medicaid is why the interstate is a parking lot in Baton Rouge. The rising cost of Medicaid is a core reason the state is running deficits.
Medicaid is indeed a large program; the largest in the state budget. The program provides health care for people who cannot afford to pay: Elderly people needing nursing home or community-based care, people with disabilities, pregnant women and children from low-income families. Starting July 1, the program also provides coverage for low-income,working-age adults who earn below 138 percent of the federal poverty level ($16,243 per year for a single person).
As policymakers consider making cuts to the Medicaid budget, they should keep some facts in mind about what’s actually driving cost increases in the program: