The director of the state Department of Health and Human Services told a Senate panel today that his agency's $225 million deficit could grow before the end of the year.
Tony Keck told senators he expects his agency to cut its costs but forecasting costs in Medicaid, the state health insurance program for the poor and disabled, is not an exact science.
"There most likely will be a change in the deficit," said Keck, who has been on the job about a month. "I can't tell you which way it will be. I think it will be smaller."
The deficit is significant because lawmaker must pay off that amount before tackling an additional $475 million shortfall for the budget year that starts July 1. The Budget and Control Board voted to allow the agency to run a $100 million deficit earlier this month.
Keck has asked lawmakers for permission to reduce what the state pays doctors and hospitals for services, an attempt to shrink the $225 million deficit. House budget writers have approved cutting that pay, a move favored by new Gov. Nikki Haley. However, the Senate has yet to act.
Keck's statement came before a subcommittee investigating whether Health and Human Services -- under former Gov. Mark Sanford -- properly informed lawmakers about its mounting budget problems.