SC Medicaid agency hopes home visits cut costs

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 25, 2013 at 6:24 pm •  Published: February 25, 2013

A spokeswoman for the agency could not immediately provide the program's estimated budget for those service reimbursements.

The agency's initiatives for better health have been widely praised by both Democrats and Republicans, who laid out the initiatives' funding as part of the committee's spending plan for the fiscal year that starts July 1. Its budget plan, advanced last week, will be debated on the House floor next month.

Democrats contend the initiatives are no alternative to expanding Medicaid eligibility under the federal health care law to hundreds of thousands of additional poor adults. They plan to continue to fight for the expansion in budget debates.

But Gov. Nikki Haley is adamantly opposed, saying the state can't afford the eventual costs. The federal government has promised to pay the full cost of the expansion for three years, and later fund 90 percent.

House Republicans are equally opposed, saying the state can't simply add people to an already bloated, inefficient Medicaid system.

Democrats have faulted the Republican plan as being funded with one-time money from agency reserves.

But Keck said that's a mischaracterization. Instead, he said, it's funded with savings from other cost-cutting initiatives, which will continue.

"As we get better controlling costs, fundamentally we're bending the cost curve," Keck said. "It's recurring savings that we're redirecting. What we used to spend on 'X,' we're now spending on 'Y'."

Budget spreadsheets show the initiatives are being funded by the agency's surplus of more than $60 million. When Keck took over the agency in early 2011, it was projecting a deficit of nearly $228 million, which was dealt with through a combination of spending and benefit reductions that included lowering payments to doctors and hospitals.