Alaska agency wants Medicaid budget change

Department seeks legislative approval for $7 million switch

Posted: Thursday, February 11, 2010

FAIRBANKS - The Department of Health and Social Services is asking the Legislature to approve a bookkeeping change to try to resolve budgeting problems with a Medicaid reimbursement program.

Alaska uses the program to help state government and school districts pay for administering medical services to Medicaid-eligible students. The state suspended the program last year after federal agencies raised questions about financial reporting.

Alison Elgee, a deputy health commissioner, told the House Finance Committee on Tuesday that the department wants legislative approval for a $7 million bookkeeping change, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported. Budget director Karen Rehfeld said the bookkeeping request does not call for extra spending but only a change in the state's accounting systems.

Members of the committee said they were perplexed by the problems and might seek a legislative audit of the program's bookkeeping.

Elgee said recent state budgets have included some unrealized expectations of reimbursements from the government for Medicaid, and that there may have been some improper entries.

"We believe there may have been some mixing and matching going on to balance the books," she said.

Some finance committee members said they were curious about whether the yearlong suspension of federal reimbursement left school districts to absorb the cost of supporting Medicaid administration.

"I'm amazed we haven't heard anything about this from the school district community," said Rep. Mike Hawker, R-Anchorage, who first suggested the audit. Hawker said the problems with the Medicaid program suggest "we have a big problem in management accounting and control" in some areas.

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