Setting the Record Straight on Medicaid Spending

By Tara Mancini

Last week, NASBO released their 2010 Report of State Expenditures and per usual, the top line message picked-up by most of the media was the large share of state expenditures used on Medicaid. 

However, there are always exceptions to the rule, and Kristen Stewart writing for a Salt Lake City Tribune Blog got it right.  In her piece, “Medicaid Not the Budget-Buster it’s Said to Be,” she pointed out the often-neglected distinction between state and federal spending on Medicaid.  While detractors of the program have been known to publicize figures for total Medicaid spending -the combination of state and federal funds- doing so distorts the picture on state spending. 

For instance, Stewart points out in her analysis that Utah Governor Gary Herbert’s recent claim that Medicaid spending takes up 17.6 percent of the state’s budget is not true.  Utah State spending on Medicaid is actually only eight percent of the general fund, meaning the state is not as strapped for funds for other critical social services as the governor would like you to think.