Budget Panel Opposes Health, Human Services Cuts Proposed by LePage

By Stone, Matthew | Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME), February 11, 2013 | Go to article overview

Budget Panel Opposes Health, Human Services Cuts Proposed by LePage


Stone, Matthew, Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME)


AUGUSTA, Maine -- The Legislature's budget-writing Appropriations Committee on Monday unanimously opposed a handful of cuts to health and human services programs recommended by Gov. Paul LePage's administration. To make up for it, the 13-member panel voted to delay Medicaid payments to hospitals from the current fiscal year to the next and found savings in accounts meant for debt service and hazardous waste cleanup.

Appropriations Committee members Monday also delved into the politically sensitive question of whether education funding cuts proposed to balance the budget should extend to charter schools, continuing a debate that has divided legislative Democrats and Republicans since early last month when the LePage administration came out with its list of recommended cuts.

The votes came as the appropriations panel continued work on LePage's $153 million supplemental budget proposal, which aims to fill a hole in the current state budget that developed largely as a result of flagging state revenues, cost overruns in the state's Medicaid program and the federal government's denial of most of Maine's requests to scale back Medicaid coverage.

The votes, all unanimous, included a couple of measures to scale back the size of cuts recommended for payments to some substance abuse treatment and mental health service providers. Those votes, for example, spared providers of adult mental health crisis services from an 18 percent, or $1.7 million, cut. The committee vote would instead leave them with a 5 percent, or $661,000, cut through June 30.

Committee members also opposed about $5 million in proposed cuts that would reduce reimbursement rates for rural hospitals and outpatient service providers.

And the panel voted against a $232,000 cut to a program that uses state money to help low-income residents meet a deductible that's necessary before they become eligible for health insurance through Medicaid.

Appropriations Committee members continue to vote on individual provisions of LePage's supplemental budget proposal in hopes of advancing the package to the full Legislature in the coming days.

Committee members late Monday started balancing their moves to reverse LePage administration-recommended cuts with unanimously supported measures that would delay nearly $2 million in Medicaid payments to hospitals from the current fiscal year to the next -- which also delays $3.3 million in federal matching funds -- and strike about $3.25 million in new spending the LePage administration says it needs to upgrade the state's Medicaid billing systems to comply with federal requirements.

In addition, the committee budgeted $1.3 million in savings from a state account used to pay debt service, recovered $500,000 in unspent money from a handful of Department of Environmental Protection funds that pay for hazardous waste cleanup, and recovered another $550,000 in unspent funds from a Health and Human Services account that pays for in-home medical equipment. …

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