It’s been a few weeks since Drew Snyder was named interim director for the Division of Medicaid. He replaced former director Dr. David Dzielak.

“I think it was a good selection because just knowing Drew, he certainly has the brains and capability so in terms of actually doing the job it was a good pick. If the hearing we had yesterday (Tuesday) is any indication that’s a good sign,” said Medicaid Chairman Sen. Brice Wiggins.

In the hearing, Snyder presented to the Senate Medicaid Committee he said that the deficit for this year’s funding would not be near as high as expected. Wiggins said lawmakers had gotten wind of a potential $50 million dollar deficit. According to Snyder, and after some apparent research, that deficit estimate was at $20 million. Snyder was also quoted in saying he hopes not to be forced to ask that.

Snyder said that drop came from rebates on drugs and contracts. However, the fear of what could raise the deficit is the ever-looming Medical Tech Bill, which must be submitted by next Monday.

With Medicaid a constantly fluctuating agency it’s hard to nail down the amount of money necessary to take care of the nearly 750,000 Mississippians that rely on those services. Wiggins said it typically follows an economic push and pull. When the economy is bad, the Medicaid roles tend to be higher, and when the economy is good they are lower.

This is not the first time for a deficit ask. Wiggins said in the past it has reached up to $100 million.

“The question is where does the deficit come from and what are the costs? I’ve asked these questions in committee ‘why does it continue to go up?’ and it was clear from Medicaid numbers that the number of enrollees was going down but the cost kept going up,” said Sen. Wiggins. He said under previous leadership, he never got an adequate answer.

If those answers lie within contracts awarded by the agency, then perhaps, Wiggins suggests, it will be beneficial to have a director like Snyder looking into those costs.

Wiggins said legislature has not fully funded the Medicaid deficit over the last few years but there was a time when the request was accepted with limited questions asked. But those deficit woes are not limited to Medicaid. Other state agencies are seeing more pushback when it comes to deficit requests from government.

In a subcommittee meeting, earlier on Wednesday the Department of Mental Health provided a report of ways they had cut back on certain services in order to better utilize state funding with a shift of $10 million from institutional budgets to the Service Budget. $8 Million going to expand Crisis Services and $2 million being used for the expansion of the ID/DD Home and Community Based Waiver.

“My take away, and I think the other members would say yes, this is the direction we want to see agencies go. Utilizing and marginalizing resources that they already have,” said Wiggins.

For Medicaid the highest cost for the budget is covering the cost of individuals that are in nursing homes, hospitals and in-house treatment centers which is similar to the costs the Mental Health Department faces. Wiggins said if agencies followed a model like what Mental health is trying to do, by spearheading the problem in areas like crisis services before it becomes an in-patient situation, it could offset some potential deficit needs.

There is a budget situation, not just on a state level, but a national one as well. Wiggins said he hopes agencies recognize core functions of government but it’s not good for a state to be bloated even though that

Read the report presented to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee January 9 HERE