New Mexico – State government's largest health care program faces a serious budget shortfall that could balloon to $300 million next year, forcing Gov. Bill Richardson's administration to start planning for cutbacks in Medicaid.
New Mexico Human Services Secretary Pam Hyde says options range from reducing or eliminating benefits, such as dental care for poor adults to lowering the reimbursement rates for doctors and other providers.
If drastic cost-cutting becomes necessary, she said, the state might need to scrap entire portions of Medicaid, such as a program to help low-income workers with insurance coverage. Officials might also revamp Medicaid to provide a minimum amount of services.
Nearly one in four New Mexicans receive all or part of their health care through the Human Service Department's medical assistance services. Medicaid covers uninsured children, poor adults and disabled New Mexicans. Its services include long-term care for the elderly.
The bleak budget outlook for Medicaid adds to financial problems confronting the Legislature and Richardson's administration. Because New Mexico's revenues are much weaker than expected, legislators plan to meet in a special session this fall to consider cutting spending to balance this year's $5.5 billion budget.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.