07/07/07 — Hidden costs: Medicaid issue will affect futures of every citizen

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Hidden costs: Medicaid issue will affect futures of every citizen

Are you wondering why everyone is in such a tizzy over Medicaid costs, and who is going to pay for them? Are you even more concerned about how this is going to affect your tax bills in the future?

You should be, especially if, like the rest of us, you see the school facilities issue as a potential mushroom cloud of painful, but necessary, costs for keeping Wayne County on the upswing.

The cost of providing Medicaid treatment for the county’s poor and indigent families is not an expense that is completely covered by the state government — at least not at this point. And more and more people are saying the expenditure is simply too expensive for counties to help bear and to continue to provide the services and infrastructure improvements that their communities need.

Counties say they cannot continue to foot the ever-increasing expenses and still meet their basic budget needs, let alone the long-neglected school facilities issues that are looming for more than one county this year.

That’s why so many are lobbying for someone to do something about providing money to cover the bills or to at least relieve some of the burden.

This problem is not a new one. Increasing costs have been a factor almost since the beginning. There have been accusations of waste and mismanagement — and judging from the increasing numbers of emergency room visits for illnesses that could be taken care of in a clinic, there might be something to that claim.

But in the meantime, someone really does have to do something. The question really is — what?

Taking more money from state coffers is really robbing Peter to pay Paul. After all, who do you think provides the money for that state budget? That’s right, the same good, old, overburdened taxpayers.

So, how is the state supposed to suck up that extra expense? You know the drill. Sounds like a few temporary taxes might stay around for a while.

Medicaid is a noble idea. No one wants a family to go without proper medical care. The program is designed to help families through rough spots as they try to better themselves. That is a good investment if the program is used wisely and within reasonable limits.

But this increasing budget burden is becoming a real issue as many counties across the state try to manage the expense and to continue to serve the people and to build for the future.

It seems like it is time for a good, hard look at what we can provide, what we can afford and what rules we need to make to ensure that Medicaid is used, not abused, and does not bankrupt communities.

Health care costs as well as increased policing of those who use and bill Medicaid might very well be the first order of business as the state considers what to do next.

The Medicaid question before the General Assembly is not just an excuse for legislators to pass the buck — it is a real concern that needs to be addressed immediately, if not sooner.

And since the final decision could have a direct effect on our pocketbooks, it might behoove us to pay a little closer attention.

Published in Editorials on July 7, 2007 11:41 PM