Alabama Medicaid Agency asks for less in budget

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. ( — Funding the Alabama Medicaid Agency is generally the biggest challenge for legislators in passing the General Fund budget every year.

Medicaid provides services to about one million Alabamians and is the largest line item in the budget.

Wednesday, Medicaid Commissioner Stephanie Azar brought good news to lawmakers at a budget hearing. Medicaid is requesting $715 million from the General Fund for 2020, $40 million less than this year.

Azar said a variety of factors should help the agency carry forward about $106 million into 2020, enough to make up the difference between the budget request and what she said is the full state cost of the program next year, $821 million.

The federal government pays 70 percent of the cost of Medicaid. But the state has still had to scramble to come up with its 30 percent share, relying partly on temporary funding sources like the BP oil spill settlement. But lawmakers apparently won’t have to resort to stopgap measures for the 2020 budget.

“That was some good news from Medicaid today, with some carryover money they’re going to have,” House General Fund budget chairman Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, said. “Less expenditures on pharmacy cost. Enrollment has stabilized, continuing to stabilize and even go down a little bit.”

Clouse said lawmakers should bear in mind that they won’t always have money to carry forward and the actual state cost, $821 million.

“We’re going to be facing that next year so we’ve got to be very cautious with our budget this year,” Clouse said.

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