Despite Mississippi's opioid epidemic and rising medical costs, two state agencies say they're reducing their budgets ahead of legislative hearings.
According to Mississippi's Division of Medicaid 760,000 people receive services. Executive Director David Dzielak says the top four expenses are hospital stays, long term care, prescription drugs and doctor fees. He appeared before the Joint Legislative Budget Committee asking for $984 million for next year's budget.
"Our budget requests has been going down, which has reversed a trend that we've seen almost since I got here 5 1/2 years ago," said Dzielak.
Dzielak says last year, they asked for just over $1 billion. After state agency budget cuts, Medicaid received $918 million. Still legislators are looking to reduce costs. Dzielak says they saved more than $8.6 million through audits and cutting contract rates. House Speaker Philip Gunn wants to see more significant reductions.
"While that sounds like a lot of money on a $1 billion budget, it's less than 100th of 1 percent and so I wanted to see a listing of ideas that they've come forward with over the last five years to save costs," said Gunn.
Dzielak says much of Medicaid's budget pays provider fees, which is a challenge to cut. The state department of mental health says its reorganizing services to reduce expenses. Spokesperson Adam Moore says their budget request is the same amount they received last year after state budget cuts; $207 million. That despite an opioid epidemic and lawsuits to expand community-based services.
"One of the things that we are requesting is to move $10 million dollars from our institutional programs and put those into community-based care," said Moore.
Moore says they have federal dollars to fund drug abuse efforts.