Medicaid panel’s job just got $541 million easier

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A portion of the $2.85 billion in savings the state Medicaid Redesign Team is charged with identifying will be easier to achieve than originally anticipated. Slower than expected growth in the Medicaid program, a health-care program for the poor and disabled, and changes in provider spending patterns have led Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Division of the Budget to deduct $475 million from the spending estimate for the program in the 2011-12 fiscal year, Robert Megna, the governor’s budget director, told the Redesign Team this morning. Pre-paying certain claims will allow New York to save an additional $66 million, he said.

The slower growth does not affect the 2010-11 fiscal year, which ends March. The state is within 1 percent of its year-end estimate of Medicaid spending this year, Megna said. State officials had to add in an additional $360 million in the middle of the year because of higher expenses, he said. New York’s Medicaid program costs nearly $54 billion a year.

A recent Congressional Budget Office report projected that Medicaid enrollment would decline by 2 percent across the country, which is considered a sign of economic recovery.

The Medicaid Redesign Team is meeting today and tomorrow to discuss in detail 79 measures that would be implemented in the 2011-12 fiscal year. Additional proposals are still in play. The team will vote yes or no on an entire package for savings that will be presented Tuesday, the deadline for the group to submit its recommendations. The panel will consider longer-term proposals after it completes the first phase of its work Tuesday.

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