Cuts in Motion


Pop quiz: What is Newton's First Law of motion? (Extra points for the actual equation.)  I'll give you a few seconds to remember.

Ok, time's up - it states that the velocity of a body remains constant unless the body is acted upon by an external force.  Or, put another, way, an object in motion tends to say in motion, until something else acts upon it.  If you got that, give yourself a point.  Two more if you even attempted the equation.

My point? Remember all those budget cuts the General Assembly made last month? The funny thing about government spending is that it tends to continue until another force acts to change it.  What you may not realize is that legislators don't actually choose where the cuts are made - they just tell different programs to spend a specific amount of money.  The dirty work is left to agencies and panels and parts of government you probably never realized existed - until they, for example, trim the budget for your Medicaid benefits.

Consider your benefits acted upon.

On Friday, officials from the Medical Care Advisory Council began trying to sort through the mess of new laws to figure out how to cut close to $1B from North Carolina's Medicaid program.  Given that the entire NC Medicaid budget is just shy of  $13B, it may not seem all that bad - until you look closer.  The projections for enrollment growth, coupled with expected increases in medical cost, are giving the panel a tough job.

They have to figure out how to pay for rising costs, for more people, with less money. And to further complicate matters, there are large expenses they can't cut, or the federal matching dollars would evaporate.  Enrollee numbers are expected to expand at a rate of over 6% in the next two years, while funding will be reduced by almost 8%.  That leaves more than $2B to be trimmed by the end of 2013.

Those are equations even Newton would have a hard time balancing.

This meeting was designed to solicit input from the public about where the cuts should be made, but there really isn't a whole lot to be done at this point. Sure, providers don't want their reimbursement rates cut, and no one wants any programs axed, but that just isn't the reality.  If you're interested, look through MCAC's budget presentation along with the written report- it pretty much spells out the problems and the possible "solutions".  And please, don't blame the poor folks on the MCAC panel - I think they all wish they were back in physics class.