MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Medicaid is both the biggest state agency and the biggest drain on the state budget.
The agency will cost the state $785 million this year and costs are only expected to rise
For the families relying on the program, funding cuts could mean a loss of vital services.
"This serves a population, like you said, that has no other option for care," said licensed orthotist Carey Jinright.
Medicaid serves more than 20 percent of the state's population, including 500,000 children.
"I can tell you hands down this is the only option for care these families have," Jinright said.
Mattisa Moorer is one such family. Her daughter Kirsten has cerebral palsy. For more than a decade, Moorer has driven her daughter to appointments all over the state, relying on Medicaid to get the care her daughter needs.
"We do what we have to do for our children, so I guess that's what I'm doing. Doing what I have to do with Kirsten," Moorer said.
The care would not be possible without Medicaid. Kirsten relies on a feeding tube for food and literally could not eat without the services Medicaid provides. Kirsten is just one of tens of thousands of kids who need the program.
"Our entire healthcare system feeds off of Medicaid," said Christy Cain of #iammedicaid.
Medicaid though feeds off the state budget. With the appetite of Medicaid growing, the state may no longer be able to fund the program.
The plan to help out is move Medicaid to a system of regional care organizations, or RCOs.
"It's meant to control the cost of Medicaid. It will still increase, just not grow exponentially," Cain said.
RCOs would basically split up the state into different regions, letting an organization take responsibility for the Medicaid patients there, giving them
cash per person on Medicaid.
The idea is these regional organizations will be more efficient than the statewide organization, and the state could control costs.
However, three of the 11 RCOs have d ropped out over funding concerns, meaning the state may need to turn to a national company for regional care.
"Just because we instituted this program doesn't make it good, doesn't make it right, doesn't make it viable," Jinright said.
Whether the answer to Medicaid's problems are the RCOs or something else, a solution needs to be found.
Without Medicaid, doctors and hospitals that see all patients may be forced to close their doors, leaving less options for all Alabamians and no where
to go for those who rely on Medicaid.