Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Governor’s budget proposal – it could be way worse

Today the Governor announced his proposed budget for the coming fiscal year that starts July 1st. The very, very good news is that Medicaid is largely untouched – no new cuts to providers, no more people losing coverage, and minimal service limits (orthodontia). This is smart because current reforms in the program are working to control costs significantly, while improving access and quality of care. The Governor proposes continuing hospital cuts from December and a 5% cut to the CT Children’s Medicaid Center’s subsidy. A lot of programs would shuffle between agencies to maximize federal reimbursements and fringe benefits would move into agency budgets. Like most other agencies, DSS would have to cut 5.75% from their operating budget ($18.6 million, not from Medicaid) if the Governor’s budget is adopted. It is hard to imagine how DSS staff will manage their difficult and increasingly complex job with fewer resources.

Unfortunately other services were not as fortunate as Medicaid. At DPH, the Governor has proposed reducing funding to local health departments, eliminating grants to community health centers, reducing grants to school-based health centers (because there are fewer uninsured due to the ACA), and $700,000 earmarked for asthma programs will be diverted from the Tobacco and Health Trust Fund to the General Fund. Fall prevention and respite care funding at the Dept. on Aging would be cut and mental health and substance abuse grants would be cut at the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. All those agencies will also have to cut 5.75% of operating costs if the Governor’s cuts are passed. Many observers are not only concerned about the cuts but also the lack of specificity; agency leadership will decide where to make cuts without legislative approval.

While the list of proposed cuts is long, it could be far worse. And please remember that because of cuts passed last year, about 18,000 working parents will lose HUSKY coverage this summer if nothing is done.