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Medicaid, KidCare enrollment up

 7/21/2009 © Health News Florida

The number of women and children enrolling in Medicaid, the safety net health care program for the poor,

and KidCare is expected to  rise as the state economy continues to lag, a reports says.

The News Service of Florida reports that s

tate economists spent Monday going over new forecasts for both the Medicaid program – which is funded with a combination of state and federal money – and KidCare, the state-subsidized children’s health insurance program.

Those latest forecasts show an 8 percent growth in the number of pregnant women who are below the poverty line and enrolled in Medicaid during the fiscal year that ended on June 30. But that growth is expected to surge to nearly 15 percent in the coming year.

The numbers are even more dramatic for children. Economists adopted forecasts proposed by the Agency for Health Care Administration that show nearly 100,000 more children are expected to enroll in Medicaid between now and June 2010. That’s a nearly 20 percent jump. Forecasts adopted back in February showed a projected 11 percent increase in the number of children for the current fiscal year.

As News Service of Florida reported, Economic and Demographic Research senior analyst James LaCrosse said the increase in caseload is “slightly higher” than anticipated. He attributed the caseload increase in part to the economy.

“We don’t know why they are there for sure,” LaCrosse said, adding that “some of it is the economy.”

New forecasts adopted on Monday also included a projected 11 percent increase in the number of children in Healthy Kids, a component of KidCare that offers insurance to families who make too much to qualify for Medicaid. Economists projected that nearly 2,400 more children will enroll in Healthy Kids between now and June 2010. Some of that growth is due to changes authorized by SB 918, which reduced the waiting period to get into Healthy Kids from 6 months to 60 days.

Costing more than $17 billion, Medicaid is one of the largest expenses in the state budget.

While increases in Medicaid population could impact the state’s budget, Florida got a huge boost this year from increased federal funding as part of the stimulus package. Plus, some of the most expensive portions of Medicaid include funding for nursing homes and prescription drugs. Economists, however, are not expected to draw up new Medicaid spending forecasts until early August.

The new Medicaid and KidCare forecasts will be used to prepare the state’s 3-year financial outlook that must be approved annually by lawmakers. Last week they studied the state’s economy and made new forecasts for lottery ticket sales that showed a slight decline.

New projections suggest that KidCare will exceed its target population of 266,654 children by January 2010 due to the growth.