Locked in a wrestling match with the Governor over Medicaid (and how much it will go over budget) the Old Bull Mooses invited Art Pope (the Budget Czar) over to the Senate for a cordial visit then added if he didn’t come along peacefully they’d send him a subpoena.
Pope, responding like a gentleman, took the affront politely saying there’d be no need for fisticuffs then trooped over to the Senate, explained patiently how Medicaid had $70 million in cash (to pay its outstanding bills) so the Bull Mooses’ fear of a $250 million deficit was unfounded then added soothingly, ‘There is good news but there are still many uncertainties.’
Now it must be said the Old Bull Mooses had history on their side: Last year Medicaid was $457 million over budget and the year before it was $375 million over budget so, naturally, the word uncertainties got the Senators’ attention – and they began to explore.
How many new people, they asked, had enrolled in Medicaid?
The answer was not what they’d hoped: No one knew because the computer system was broken.
How much, they asked, were doctors and hospitals owed that they hadn’t been paid?
The answer was equally disconcerting: Another computer system was broken so no one knew the answer to that either.
A Senator said Medicaid spending had been increasing by 5% each year and asked, How much will it increase this year?
Less, Pope said.
Then, leaving broken computer systems behind, Pope got down to brass tacks.
“Senator,” he asked, “what is the cost of overfunding Medicaid?” and then explained – in the Budget the Bull Mooses had proposed – the cost was firing 7,000 teacher assistants and removing 5,200 aged, blind and disabled people, including 1,600 patients with Alzheimer’s or dementia, from Medicaid.
Of course, that didn’t sit too well with the Senate’s budget writers.
Senator Bob Rucho turned to the head of the Hospital Association, who was sitting in the audience, and asked if there was enough money in Pope’s plan to pay all the bills the hospitals were owed.
The Hospital Chief said he didn’t know so Rucho next fired a tougher question at him: If it turned out the Governor hadn’t budgeted enough to pay the hospital’s bills would they eat the difference?
That didn’t sit too well with the Hospital Chief but, at least, when the smoke cleared Rucho’d established the hospitals weren’t about to risk putting their money where their mouth was when it came to verifying the exactitude of Medicaid budgets.