MassHealth Enrollment, Costs Grow

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New figures show enrollment in MassHealth — the state Medicaid program — has surged by 80,000 people since May of last year, an increase likely to complicate efforts to bridge a major budget shortfall this fiscal year.

Figures released by the Executive Office of Health and Human Services show MassHealth enrollment has grown beyond projections to more than 1.2 million people.

Jennifer Kritz, a spokeswoman for the agency, says the poor economy has swelled the rolls of those trying to enroll in the program, which covers the poor and elderly.

Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, says the options are limited for cutting costs associated with expanding MassHealth coverage.

"This is more bad news," he said. "Our revenues are continuing to decline on the one the hand, and our expenditures are growing on the other -- expenditures for case-load driven programs like Medicaid that always grow during a recession."

State officials have until the end of the week to issue revised revenue estimates for the fiscal year.

Some analysts say the state could face as much as a $1 billion budget gap for this current fiscal year, due to sagging revenues.

This program aired on October 13, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.