AUSTIN (KXAN) - Unless lawmakers can find a way to rein in state-paid health care costs, programs like Medicaid "will chew up" Texas' budget in the coming two-year cycle.
That was the assessment of Dr. Kyle Janek, a former state legislator who now runs the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. Janek was the featured guest of KXAN's "In Session, In-Depth on Sunday morning.
He praised the efforts of legislative budget-writers to find savings in Medicaid, a federal-state program that pays health care costs mostly for children and expectant mothers who are living in poverty. But, he said, the budget-writers are facing a huge task.
"We have to sort of change the way we approach Medicaid -- its funding and the services we provide -- or it will chew up the rest of the budget," said Janek, a Republican from the Houston area who served in both the House and the Senate in the 1990s and 2000s.
In his State of the State Address early last week, Gov. Rick Perry reaffirmed his statement that Texas will not expand the Medicaid program even though the federal government is encouraging states to do so.
Janek also acknowledged that the state's Women's Health Program has had a rocky few months as Texas barred the organization, Planned Parenthood from participating in it. The state Republican leadership is at odds with the organization because of its association with abortion providers, even though the abortion providers were not participating in the Women's Health Program.
Among the problems, Janek said, was misleading information on the program's website regarding doctors and other groups that were in the program. The site was overhauled, and now it is accurate, Janek said. He also insisted that there are enough doctors in the program to meet the demand.
But the incoming president of the Texas Medical Association, who was part of Sunday show's roundtable discussion, disagreed. And the problem, said Dr. Stephen Brotherton, is tied directly to programs like Medicaid.
"There's really not" enough participants in WHP, said Brotherton, who was on the panel with Emily Ramshaw of the Texas Tribune and Corrie MacLaggan of Reuters. "The problem is doctors are trying to get by on inadequate reimbursement."
Programs like Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program, which covers youngsters in low-income working families, pay physicians only a fraction of the cost of providing care, Brotherton said.
"So if you don't have a mix of patients," he said, "you're going to go broke."
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