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Survey shows growing pressure on Medicaid programs

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State Medicaid programs saw unexpected increases in enrollment and spending during fiscal 2009, and more budget problems may lie ahead, said a survey released Wednesday.

Enrollment in Medicaid — the state-federal program that covers health care for the needy, the elderly and people with disabilities — grew 5.4 percent on average, the highest rate of increase in six years. Meanwhile, spending on the programs averaged nearly 8 percent, the highest rate in five years.

The recession spurred the increases, according to the study, which was released by the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured.

The state-administered Medicaid programs were helped by about $87 billion in federal stimulus money that arrived earlier this and prevented some cuts to providers and benefits.

Even so, 33 states cut or froze provider reimbursement rates, and 39 are expected to do so in fiscal year 2010, the study said.

While economists say the recession is fading, the Kaiser study found the growth trends are expected to continue “well into” fiscal 2010.

Medicaid spending is expected to average at least a 6.3 percent increase then. But most state officials surveyed are worried they will still face “more budget shortfalls and more pressures to trim services and spending,” the study said.

© 2009 Associated Press. Displayed by permission. All rights reserved.

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