MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — State Health Officer Don Williamson told Alabama lawmakers on Wednesday that money will be available to fund Alabama's Medicaid program at a minimal level through 2014.
But Williamson told a joint meeting of the House and Senate General Fund budget committees he did not know where the money would come from after 2014 to run the health insurance program for the economically disadvantaged.
Williamson is also the interim director of the Alabama Medicaid Agency.
Williamson says it will take $615 million to adequately fund Medicaid for the current fiscal year, but he predicts the program would need $743 million in revenue in 2014.
Williamson says he can find the money needed through 2014 by making budget cuts in services and other expenditures.
"After 2014 there is no money left," Williamson said.
Funding is a yearly headache for Medicaid, which get its funds from both the state and federal government. The Medicaid funding crisis became so dire last year that voters passed an amendment in a special election to allow lawmakers to take money from an oil and gas revenues savings account and move that money into the General Fund budget.
One legislator asked Williamson if he had the answer to Medicaid's funding problems.
He shook his head and said, "I cannot suggest that I can fix Medicaid."
Republican Rep. Lynn Greer of Rogersville said he thought many Medicaid recipients would be willing to raise the co-pay to save the program Monday.
Williamson said he doesn't have the authority to raise the co-pay.
Democratic Sen. Billy Beasley, a Clayton pharmacist, said he thought the increasing cost of medicine has something to do with the rising cost of Medicaid.
"Most manufacturers have increased the price of drugs since the first of the year," Beasley said.
Beasley suggested that a cigarette tax would help resolve Medicaid's problems but said most officials are reluctant to support a cigarette tax at a time when they are trying to encourage people to stop smoking.